Bridging the Gap: How Fintech Is Transforming Financial Inclusion in Mexico

Fintech is disrupting the financial services industry by creating a digital alternative to traditional institutions. Fintech companies use innovative technologies and data analytics to facilitate access to banking and financial services, including payments, loans, and insurance. There is still a significant percentage of the world’s population that is excluded from the financial ecosystem and does not have access to platforms that allow them to track their spending, save money, or use other banking services. The percentage of adults making digital payments increased globally from 26% to 51% between 2014 and 2021, but in Latin America and the Caribbean, this number increased from 5% to 20% over the same period. The increase in account ownership in LAC is largely due to greater access to mobile money accounts, which has made financial products more accessible to women, low-income groups, and other excluded sectors. Financial Inclusion in Mexico In Mexico, in 2021, over 40% of the population was considered financially excluded, according to the ENIF survey. This means that they do not have access to formal financial services such as banking, saving, credit, and insurance. However, fintech has been playing a critical role in improving financial inclusion in the country by bringing financial services to the previously unbanked. This has forced large financial institutions to reevaluate their business practices, resulting in 16.8 million adults in Mexico having access to banking services through fintech platforms in 2020. According to the Mexican Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV), financial inclusion in Mexico has four fundamental components: Access: Infrastructure available to offer financial services and products. Use: Acquisition or contracting by the population of one or more financial products or services. Consumer protection: New or existing financial products and services are under a framework that guarantees transparency of information, fair treatment, and good practices. Financial education: Aptitudes, skills, and knowledge that the population acquires in order to be able to correctly manage and plan their personal finances.   The World Bank reports that financial inclusion in Mexico has advanced due to the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, whose main policy goal is to allow 77% of the Mexican population to hold at least one financial product by 2024, compared to 68% in 2018. More than $200 million in loans have been given out in the last five years, primarily to residents in rural and marginalized communities. However, there is still a significant percentage of the population that doesn’t have access to essential financial products and services like savings accounts, credit, insurance, and pensions. This leaves a large portion of the population vulnerable to financial shocks, such as job loss or illness, and unable to save for important life events like education or retirement. Fintech is playing an important role in transforming financial inclusion in Mexico and bridging this gap. Fintech Solutions Fintech companies use specialized software and algorithms to bridge the gap between those with access to financial services and those without. As more people access the Internet through their mobile devices, fintech companies are able to reach a wider audience and offer their services through user-friendly mobile apps, making digital banking more accessible and affordable for people living in rural areas, low-income households, the elderly, or those working in the informal sector. In March 2018, Mexico published the Fintech Law after the number of financial technology companies grew by 50% in the previous two years. The Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público or SHCP), the Mexican Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV), and the Central Bank (BANXICO) are the main regulators of this sector. The law aims to foster financial inclusion, provide greater legal certainty for users of fintech services, and generate more competition in the market. Fintech regulation has placed Mexico at the forefront of regulatory issues and consolidated its position as a pioneer in the field. By 2021, there were around 512 fintech startups in Mexico, making it the second largest fintech ecosystem in Latin America after Brazil. Their competitive advantage is the specialization in some products to meet different sectors, segments, and market needs, such as payments and remittances, loans, corporate financial management, among others. As we can see in Figure 1, Business and Consumer Lending is the subsector with the highest market share, coinciding with credit cards, which are the products for which fintechs are best known today.           Figure 1. Fintech Subsectors and Market Share 2021    Source: Fintech Radar Mexico 2021   The sectors with the highest market share are Loans (21%) and Payments and Remittances (18%). A good example of those with a presence in Mexico are Nubank and Clip. Clip, as one of the leading companies, was the first terminal in the country (mobile and non-mobile) to accept all payment methods, pioneering innovation in business payment methods in Mexico. This helps SMEs increase their sales and have better control of their finances without paying high rates and commissions. Nubank, the largest neobank (which operates exclusively online) in Latin America, has a presence in Mexico, offering their first product: a credit card without annuities, acceptable in all businesses, and without long waiting times for approval. Nu Mexico is a company that has made a special effort to bridge the financial inclusion gap, as reported in 2022; 46% of its clients report a monthly income of less than 10,000 pesos; 1 in 3 customers over the age of 65 did not have a credit card before Nu card; its clients are located in 80% of the priority rural municipalities for the federal government. Future Prospects for Financial Inclusion with Fintech Financial inclusion has been a hot topic in Mexico, and fintech has played a key role in driving change. As more of the population gain access to internet connections and financial services, it is important to take a look at the future prospects of financial inclusion with fintech in Mexico. Offering individuals financial products like bank accounts and credit cards through their current smartphone service is one method of increasing financial inclusion. In Mexico, 67% of people over the age of 15 had smartphones in 2020, and that number is expected to rise to 74% by 2025. However, only 32% have made or received digital payments. This presents a significant opportunity to improve accessibility through digitized services. It is also important that both traditional financial institutions and fintechs continue to work together to re-educate people on the benefits of using electronic money; this not only expands access to financial services but also helps boost economic growth and reduce inequality. In conclusion, the outlook for fintech and financial inclusion in Mexico is positive. The industry has grown rapidly in recent years, driven by favorable regulatory policies, increasing smartphone penetration, growing demand for digital financial services, and a focus on reaching underserved populations. With continued innovation and expansion, the fintech industry is expected to play a key role in promoting financial inclusion and economic growth in Mexico in the years to come.   Author: Meliza Rivas Sources:,they%20have%20a%20bank%20account.,with%20similar%20levels%20of%20development.,del%2030%25%20del%20total%20regional.,Los%20pagos%20electr%C3%B3nicos.

Navigating the future of autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles (AVs), also known as self-driving or driverless cars, are becoming increasingly common on city streets around the world. The developers of these vehicles are striving to provide drivers with a safe, comfortable, and hands-free experience, pushing the boundaries of comfort and safety in road travel. A driverless car relies on sensors, cameras, radar, and artificial intelligence (AI) to travel between destinations without a human driver. Its technology developers use vast amounts of data from image recognition systems, machine learning, and neural networks to build systems that can drive autonomously. This data includes images from cameras mounted on the AV that can identify any driving environment’s components, such as traffic lights, trees, curbs, walkers, street signs, etc. Automakers and technology companies are still far behind in releasing fully autonomous cars. Although there are no commercially available self-driving cars for individual buyers today, some vehicles currently offer advanced driver assistance features. There is some confusion about what today’s cars are capable of and whether today’s active driving assistance (ADA) systems, which automatically steer, brake, and accelerate under certain conditions, are considered self-driving. Levels and types of AVs The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines six vehicle driving automation system levels according to the degree of automation, ranging from Level 0, where vehicles have no automation, to Level 5, which represents full automation. Most vehicles on the road are at Level 1 equipped with driver assistance or Level 2 with partial automation, while some prototypes are at Level 3 or Level 4 with conditional and high automation, respectively. Right now, we are at Level 2, with cars that can control steering, acceleration, and braking while still requiring the driver to remain engaged. In the future, Level 5 autonomy would mean fully driverless vehicles. According to McKinsey & Company, the first Level 3 traffic-jam pilots or prototypes, in which autonomous systems control driving and monitoring in some situations, have already received regulatory approval in 2021. [caption id="attachment_8808" align="aligncenter" width="641"] Figure 1. Levels of driving Automation (Synopsys, 2023)[/caption]   Which vehicle segments could be autonomous? New modes of transportation will emerge, primarily driven by factors such as what is being transported, the type of vehicle ownership, and where the vehicle operates. As of today, the strongest candidates to become fully automated are passenger cars, including private cars and shared autonomous vehicles, also known as robo-taxis or shuttles; the second segment is autonomous truck platooning. It is forecast that by 2040, there will be over 33 million driverless vehicles on the road. When it comes to the cost of shared autonomous vehicles, the cost per mile of a robo-taxi trip could be just 20% higher than that of a private nonautonomous car in specific contexts, depending on the segment, geography, and local conditions such as the city archetype. A robo-shuttle could be 10 to 40% cheaper than private, non-autonomous cars, though less convenient. Another segment where full automation is close to becoming a reality is truck platooning, where a group of vehicles equipped with advanced technology travel together in a line at high speed. In a truck platoon, a lead vehicle is followed by the other vehicles at the same speed and maneuvers as the lead vehicle. Each vehicle communicates with the lead vehicle, which is in control. These new transportation means, especially robo-taxis and shuttle mobility, can potentially disrupt our future mobility behavior and cannibalize the many miles people travel daily. Global Autonomous vehicles Market size According to an autonomous vehicle market forecast by Next Move Strategy Consulting, the global market for L1 and L2 autonomous vehicles reached nearly USD 106 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach over USD 2.2 trillion in 2030, growing at a CAGR of 35.6% from 2021 to 2030. [caption id="attachment_8814" align="aligncenter" width="555"] Figure 2. Global Autonomous Vehicles Market Size (Statista, 2023)[/caption] Asia Pacific is expected to account for the largest market share by 2030, followed by Europe and North America. The main factors driving the growth of the autonomous / self-driven car market are: Increasing demand for a safe, efficient, and convenient driving experience Rising disposable income in emerging economies; and Stringent safety regulations across the globe   Autonomous Vehicles market players in 2023 Many companies are already conducting extensive testing of private AV cars, fleets of shared AVs, and AV trucks. The companies involved range from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers to tech players and start-ups. [caption id="attachment_8815" align="aligncenter" width="535"] Figure 3. OEMs and suppliers to tech players and start-ups (AI Time Journal, 2023)[/caption]   Autonomous Vehicles in the Middle East UAE becomes the first in the Middle East and the second globally to test self-driving cars on the streets with the approval of a temporary license to test self-driving vehicles on the roads. According to the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy, launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, 25% of all trips on various self-driving transport means in Dubai will be driverless by 2030. In April 2021, the Roads Transportation Authority signed an agreement with Cruise, a General Motors-backed company, to operate Cruise autonomous vehicles to offer taxi and e-Hail services until 2029. It is planned to reach 4,000 Cruise AVs in Dubai by 2030 as part of its efforts to enhance Dubai’s pioneering role in self-driving transport and transform it into the smartest city in the world. [caption id="attachment_8817" align="aligncenter" width="578"] Figure 4. Dubai Self-Driving Transportation Strategy 2030 (Road and Transport Authority UAE, 2023)[/caption]   Can we see driverless taxis on UAE streets in 2023? According to Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, Cruise has sent two of its autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles to Dubai to begin mapping the streets in the Jumeirah area, driven by specialist drivers using two Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles equipped with sensors and cameras in preparation for a planned launch in 2023. The technology uses a high-resolution map of the physical environment using several sensors, including LiDAR, cameras, and others. The cars were driven around the city to collect data, which can then be used to create a navigable map for Cruise’s driverless vehicles to follow. Dubai is aggressively integrating self-driving transport across all modes of public transport, from taxis and metros to buses and shuttles, and wants to set a global example for policy and legislation regarding self-driving transport.   Challenges and future of Autonomous Vehicles Regulations and safety According to a McKinsey survey conducted on 75 executives from automotive, transportation, and software companies working on autonomous driving in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific in December 2021, 60% of respondents viewed the need for regulatory support as the greatest requirement for autonomous driving; those in Europe were most likely to voice this sentiment. Notably, several European countries have launched independent efforts to create regulations. Different regulations have also emerged in China at the municipal level. [caption id="attachment_8821" align="aligncenter" width="536"] Figure 5. Main challenges to the adoption of Autonomous Vehicles (McKinsey & Company, 2021)[/caption]   Technology barriers The technology must be tested for many millions of kilometers before it can be fully commercialized. To achieve a 95% equivalency to a human driver, an autonomous automobile needs to travel around 291 million miles without causing any fatalities. For instance, the first fatal accident happened in March 2018, when a Level-4 Uber prototype collided with a person crossing the street. Lack of required infrastructure In emerging countries, the development of IT infrastructure on highways is slow as compared to developed economies. 3G and 4G-LTE communication networks, which are required for connectivity, are limited to urban and semi-urban areas. Autonomous/ Self-driving cars require basic infrastructure such as well-organized roads, lane markings, and GPS connectivity for effective functioning. We can conclude that the market size of autonomous vehicles is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade, reaching trillions of U.S. dollars by 2030 due to the expected expansion of autonomous vehicle levels. More than half of the new vehicles sold globally will be at least at level 3, while about 10% will be at level 4 or higher. North America and Europe may lead the adoption of higher-level AVs for personal use, while China and Asia-Pacific may dominate the market for robo-taxis and shared mobility services. Highway driving or parking may be more suitable for higher-level AVs than others, such as urban driving or off-road driving. This will be driven by technological improvements, regulatory support, consumer demand, safety benefits, and environmental concerns. Do you think autonomous vehicles will be a reliable and safe option for everyday transportation without the need for a human driver?   Author:  Eman Abdelmohsen Sources:,automotive%20customers%20across%20the%20world.

ROBOTS: Everything you need to know from myths to mind-blowing technologies and disturbing realities

Robots are not what we once thought. They are more than those humanoid creations with odd speech patterns, and they are definitely not as evil as depicted in science-fiction movies like The Terminator (1984) or in novels like Frankenstein’s artificial lifeform monster. Although the now real “killer robots” are making us question whether our subconsciously learned stereotype is really a misconception or rather a prediction of the future, it is safe to say that robots do have many useful applications that benefit society on multiple levels, which is why companies around the world are increasingly opting for them. So, what exactly are robots? There are two main types of robots: industrial robots and service robots. Industrial robots are mainly used in manufacturing industries and factories, and they are programmed to handle dangerous tasks that require precision, consistency, and heavy lifting. They represent an important component of process automation, and they are increasingly being integrated with artificial intelligence and the cloud. On the other hand, service robots are often intended for more “soft” tasks in offices, homes, or similar environments to assist people. They can either be human-operated or fully autonomous, and they are safer to interact with since they are designed to be human-facing devices that mimic human abilities. If we look at the numbers, industrial robots generate higher revenues compared to service ones, with USD 24.18 billion for industrial robots compared to USD 8.23 billion for service ones in 2022. Together, both types generated a total of USD 32.41 billion in revenue in 2022 and are expected to reach USD 43.32 billion in 2027, per the below chart. [caption id="attachment_8789" align="aligncenter" width="549"] Notes: Data shown is using current exchange rates and reflects market impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war. Most recent update: Aug2022; Source Statista[/caption]   When it comes to industrial robots and the manufacturing industry, Asian countries are dominating the market, with 74% of the 517,385 newly deployed robots in 2021 installed in Asia. In fact, the highest densities of robots can be found in Asian countries, with 932 robots per 10,000 employees in South Korea, compared to 605 in Singapore and 390 in Japan, as shown in the below graph Manufacturing industry-related robot density in selected countries worldwide in 2020 While the Singapore Government is actively seeking to develop national capabilities in robotics through its National Robotics Programme, it has also unexpectedly caused a ramp-up of automation in the country after enacting the “Serious Disasters Punishment Act” in 2021. The new law imposed criminal liability on CEOs and high-ranking managers in the case of injuries and deaths on job sites to encourage them to invest in making workplaces safer; however, in reality, it has pushed companies to avoid the entire problem by replacing workers with machines. Why the race for robots? Are they really that useful? Technology has come a long way since the first mechanical invention, an automated water clock, was created in early 270 B.C. While robots were later developed as machines that handle repetitive tasks that do not require precision, they are now deployed across a broad spectrum of industries, with many benefits. In the healthcare sector, assistive robot arms are opening doors to independence for people with disabilities or advanced muscular problems. Robots are also assisting in hospitals, such as in Mongkutwattana General Hospital in Bangkok, where three robotic nurses helped face the surge in the number of patients in 2017 by traveling between desks and delivering important paperwork and medicine to doctors. In the retail industry, automation is increasingly incorporated in different stages of the value chain, including logistics and supply chains, back-offices and in-store operations, and sales and marketing, with the aim of optimizing customer experiences and driving revenue. While the global retail automation market was valued at USD 11.3 billion in 2020, it is estimated to reach USD 33 billion in 2030. AI-powered robots such as Effective Retail Intelligent Scanners can take over time-intensive tasks by scanning shelves and alerting staff of any misplaced items and price tag inconsistencies, in addition to issuing stock warnings. In terms of customer support, sensor-based robots can also bring customers the products they are looking for, while AI-powered ones can offer personalized product recommendations. Moving on to the leisure and travel sectors, we can find that the world’s first AI news anchor joined China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency in 2018 with the ability to mimic facial expressions, speak in both English and Chinese, read texts, and report on social media and on the Xinhua website. Moreover, robots are making life easier and more convenient for humans. For example, during the Tokyo 2020 Games, two Toyota human support robots assisted spectators in wheelchairs by carrying their belongings and guiding them to their seats, while at the Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport, robot valets are parking cars in a robot-lot, fitting 50 percent more cars in the same area by parking them closer together. Not to mention that a three-armed robot, can now prepare, cut, and serve a pizza in less than five minutes while creating 500,000 unique recipes at the Pazzi restaurant in Paris. [caption id="attachment_8755" align="aligncenter" width="369"] The world’s first AI news anchor adopted by China’s state news agency Xinhua in 2018; Source: The Guardian[/caption] Robots are also extremely helpful in addressing climate change. Advanced technologies are now used to create profitable solutions that positively impact the environment and help achieve net zero goals, in what we call “technology eco-advantage”. PwC UK estimated in 2019 that using environmental applications of AI in four sectors—agriculture, transport, energy, and water—could reduce worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 4% in 2030, the equivalent of 2.4 Gt CO2e. This represents the 2030 annual emissions of Australia, Canada, and Japan combined. Real-life applications that back up this estimation include the tree-planting robot “Growbot”, created by SkyGrow with a mission to plant trees faster than the rate of deforestation. The robot is 10 times faster than trained individuals and helps cut costs in half compared to traditional techniques. Researchers at Sichuan University have also invented a 13-mm-long flexible and self-healing nacre robot fish that is programmed to absorb microplastics from seas and oceans up to 5kg in weight just by swimming around. If robots are helpful, then why all the controversy? The truth is, robotic applications are useful for humanity on many different levels, but they rarely come without any serious downsides. Whether it is the displacement effects of robots performing tasks previously done by humans, injuries caused by over-automation, or ethical concerns about killer robots and algorithmic bias, many questions are being raised about what the future holds and how much we can control. Displacement effects and the concept of “Reshoring” A study on the US labor market found that for every robot added per 1,000 workers in the U.S., wages would decline by 0.42%, and one robot would decrease employment by 3.3 workers. This displacement effect varies based on the gender, age, and country of the worker. In fact, the World Economic Forum found in 2019 that women are more likely to lose their jobs due to automation in comparison to men because the positions that have more than a 90% chance of becoming automated, such as cashiers, administrative assistants, and bookkeepers, are mostly dominated by women. Accordingly, for every seven men employed in occupations with a 90 percent likelihood of automation, there are 10 women. The IMF also estimated in 2018 that 26 million women in 30 countries face a high risk of being displaced by technology within the next 20 years. When it comes to age, young people aged 16-24 face the highest vulnerability to losing their jobs compared to other age groups, as shown in the below graph. As for country-level effects, the ILO has also raised the idea of “reshoring”, where labor-intensive tasks previously outsourced to developing countries can be reshored to developed ones to be performed by robots, resulting in a shift in the global division of labor. Injuries and inefficiencies It is true that robots are more efficient than humans in certain aspects, but overusing them can be dangerous. For example, after Amazon began employing robots in its warehouses in 2014 to take on repetitive tasks, the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed in 2020 that during the period 2016-2019, the rate of serious injuries endured by Amazon employees at automated warehouses was 50 percent higher than at facilities that didn’t use robots. This was due to robots increasing workers’ quotas from scanning 100 items per hour to scanning 400, which was far beyond their human capacity. While over-automation might not always lead to injuries, it can often be inefficient. In Japan, after the Henn na Hotel opened in 2015 as the first hotel in the world to be entirely staffed by robots, it had to replace more than half of its 243 robotic workforce with traditional human service providers in 2019. Robots were found to annoy guests and break down many times; they were incapable of answering some basic questions at the front desk, and robot room assistants woke up guests in the middle of the night as they mistook snoring sounds for commands. Despite these risks, robot hotels are increasingly becoming popular worldwide, with NEOM’s first robot-powered Yotel Hotel opening in the Oxagon district in 2025, in Saudi Arabia. Algorithmic bias and toxic stereotypes Another major concern that shakes our trust in robots is their programming, which is based on biased artificial intelligence algorithms. In 2022, in a collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and other educational institutions, scientists asked programmed robots to scan blocks with people’s faces on them and choose a block based on their command. When asked to select a “criminal block”, the robot chose the block with the black man’s face 10% more often than when asked to select a “person block”. Also, when asked to select a “janitor block” the robot selected Latino men 10% more often while selecting men more often than women when asked for a “doctor block” and choosing black and Latina women when asked for a "homemaker block”. On another note, in May 2016, the investigative journalism organization ProPublica claimed that the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS), a computer program used by a US court for risk assessment, was found to mistakenly label black defendants as more likely to re-offend at almost twice the rate as white people. Similar COMPAS and programs are used in hundreds of courts across the US, making us question if robots are being racialized as “white” and programmed with toxic stereotypes. Legal autonomous weapons and killer robots Ethical concerns take a much bigger turn when it comes to lethal autonomous weapons and military robots that use artificial intelligence to identify and kill human targets without human intervention. These are no longer limited to movies but are becoming a reality on the battlefield. A military combat robot experiment developed by the U.S. military’s research labs          Source: Teslarati While some see it as more ethical to employ robots in wars rather than human fighters, others think that “killer robots” can cause more collateral damage than human soldiers. They have been designed to be unpredictable to be one step ahead of the enemy, but their unpredictability combined with their speed, lack of situational awareness, risk of inaccurate target identification, and programming based on biometric information can rapidly escalate the conflict and result in selective killing based on age, gender, and race. Once these weapons start being mass-produced, they can be sold on the black market and fall into the wrong hands, leading to human disasters. How are organizations, companies, and employees reacting? The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva started discussing lethal autonomous weapons in 2013 and set up in 2016 a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to develop a new ‘normative and operational framework’ for member states. In July 2015, during a joint conference on artificial intelligence, an open letter calling for a ban on autonomous weapons was released and signed by significant figures such as Elon Musk, inventor and founder of Tesla, Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and Stephen Hawking, physicist at the University of Columbia. Also, the Stop Killer Robots Coalition, formed by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other NGOs, was launched in 2013 to call for new international law on autonomy in weapons systems, and in October 2022, 70 states delivered a joint statement on autonomous weapons systems in what became the largest cross-regional group statement ever made throughout UN discussions on the issue so far. When it comes to industrial and service robots, many employees perceive robots as the new “digital workforce” that is stealing their jobs. While denying the truth is pointless, companies should try to openly communicate with their workers their vision for the future in terms of automation and technology and invest in training and upskilling their employees to be able to fit in an automated workplace where robots complement employees’ work rather than replace them. So… Are we for or against robots? Robots might be able to perform some of the same tasks as humans with higher speed and accuracy, but they still have a long way to go when it comes to emotional and cultural sensitivity, opening doors to questions, concerns, and fears. It is almost like a love-hate relationship, but it is also one with which we eventually need to make peace if we want to stay ahead of the game. New robotic technologies, or even bots and chatbots like ChatGPT, will never stop breaking new ground, and it is up to us to determine how we perceive them. Allies or enemies? The choice is yours. Author: Mané Djizmedjian Sources:,rounded%20off%20the%20top%20five.,of%20items%2C%20according%20to%20Amazon,within%20the%20next%2020%20years

May 26 2023 | Technology
How can artificial intelligence be used to help with recruitment and talent selection?

Artificial intelligence is an integrative discipline that simulates human aptitudes and cognitive behavior. In other words, intelligent systems imitate human aptitudes in order to execute complicated tasks that are outside the limits of human cognitive competence while removing errors and reducing risks of bias that are commonly linked to human beings. There are several established AI applications available nowadays, such as expert systems, neural computing, genetic algorithms, artificial neural networks, etc.   Artificial Intelligence’s use in the HR context Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to enhance managerial decision-making and assist managers in speeding up their day-to-day tasks. Human Resource Management refers to a set of HR policies and related management practices in organizations. The application of AI technology to HRM can increase a company’s profits. The development and refinement of HRM efficiency through the use of AI tools has become an essential trend for the future development of HRM as a field.   Artificial Intelligence in recruitment and talent selection AI is becoming more prominent in the HR field, particularly in recruitment and selection. It is crucial for companies to identify, attract, retain, and manage the right talents. Having a talented team and the appropriate tools within a company’s HR department will directly lead to increased profits, but making a rationally perfect decision when it comes to candidate selection is challenging. Traditional recruitment strategies and techniques are built on psychometric doctrines. In addition to that, there are objectivity issues and human biases during the planning and execution of the recruitment process. To avoid this potential problem, organizations have considerably increased their use of screening programs in the past years—smart software programs that offer companies the chance to minimize human bias during the whole screening process of profiles. Below are some examples of AI techniques leveraged by the HR industry: The “Knowledge-based search engine” is considered one of the most frequently adopted AI techniques when it comes to recruitment. The search engines identify the connotation of the search subject and search content on the web for suitable applicants´ profiles based on the keywords or grammatical tags of job advertisements and candidates’ profiles. This includes desired experience, credentials and qualifications, position title, etc. Another popular AI technique is Expert systems, which is considered relevant in Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and corporate decision-making and helps propose actions instead of developing opinions.   An alternative technique that is widely employed in the recruitment field is “Data Mining” which is the process of searching and evaluating very large arrays of data and then pulling out the information from it. This specific technique is usually employed to identify keywords while screening a large volume of applicants´ resumes. A smart text-treating method employing text mining aimed at emotion analysis could be very useful when recruitment specialists are evaluating the applicants since it can give them a better idea of the candidates´ profiles by analyzing their emotions in a word-based context.   HR leaders are also increasingly considering and adopting "Chatbots". Chatbots employ neural language to communicate with candidates via aural or textual approaches; they are intelligent solutions that systematize tasks that are time-consuming, such as sourcing, screening, and evaluating profiles. Chatbots will start an instantaneous interaction with the applicants as soon as they send their job applications. After evaluating the application, the software will conduct different evaluation tests and reply to questions raised by applicants. Studies have demonstrated that most job applicants would develop negative reactions if they did not obtain feedback from firms. Thus, chatbots can significantly enhance candidates´ experiences by eliminating the communication breach that commonly exists between recruitment specialists and candidates. Some of the contemporary chatbots employed in recruitment are Wendy, Mya, and HireVue. The use of AI technologies and machine learning in the recruitment and selection process is becoming more popular. In fact, recruitment specialists have started to use AI techniques and technologies while interviewing face-to-face potential candidates. Specific AI solutions that are accessible in the market target evaluating the performance of candidates through analyzing their video interviews. Some examples of such AI solutions are Hire Vue, Affectiva, or HireIQ. These smart technologies are used to study the facial expressions of candidates, the specific words they choose to use, the voice tone employed when answering specific questions, and even the communication style. They help recruitment professionals assess candidates´ emotional intelligence, trustworthiness, and reliability, as well as get a better interpretation of their personalities. With such AI solutions, recruiters can make more accurate decisions and rank candidates based on their suitability for the job proposed as well as their fit with regard to the company´s culture, thus avoiding the risk of a costly recruitment error for the organization.   Recruitment function in danger? With so many promising benefits, there is no doubt that the use of artificial intelligence in recruitment and selection will grow significantly over time. However, substituting a large group of analytical managerial positions is quite a challenge. The use of artificial intelligence technologies and tools in the recruitment and selection process is likely to increase at both the intuitive and empathetic levels/stages. Intuitive intelligence tools such as chatbots are currently used to conduct first interviews and evaluate candidates´ potential. In the near future, organizations are very likely to start using expressive, sensitive, talkative, and extremely interactive machines with face and sound identification technology to perform face-to-face interviews. However, it is unlikely that artificial intelligence will be able to entirely substitute the recruiter´s occupation since the human touch will continue to be indispensable. That being said, regular dependence on artificial intelligence tools will considerably impact recruitment-related occupations within the HR fields, lowering the costs of employing several people to take care of different functions within the recruitment and selection process. Author: Kenza Abadi References,%20No.%201/9605.pdf

January 25 2023 | Technology
The Metaverse: How to access the virtual world

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technological advancements to a new level. On one hand, it embraced the work-from-home model, allowing employees to join meetings on online platforms; on the other hand, tech and gaming companies started innovating to provide entertainment experiences as the world was on restricted travel and lockdown. Gaming companies are looking to provide their customers with extended-reality gaming, immersive, and 3D experiences. These experiences are starting to merge with the professional world as companies are looking for new ways to make online meetings more interactive, and the “Metaverse” is a solution that can bridge online meetings with the immersive gaming experience. So, what exactly is the metaverse? And how can companies or businesses join the metaverse? This article discusses the three ways that businesses can gain access to the metaverse: by purchasing land on existing metaverses or by creating their own metaverse, either in collaboration with a developer or using a company's own internal IT team. For each access method, the costs are highlighted along with the requirements and steps to access the metaverse. Last but not least, examples of consulting companies joining the metaverse are provided. The metaverse can be seen as a simulation of the real world in a digital environment, where users can create their own avatars and perform activities (work, shop, interact, etc.) similar to those they would do in real life. The metaverse is destined to be an extension of the real world, not a replica of it. The term is composed of two main words: the prefix “Meta” (Beyond) and verse (Universe); a virtual universe beyond the real one. The metaverse builds on the Internet and requires technologies to enable it. Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), haptic and brain-computer interfaces, intelligent sensors, cryptocurrency, blockchain, holograms, and digital twins are among the fundamental technologies necessary for the successful launch of the metaverse.   How can businesses/companies access the metaverse? Businesses or companies can enter the metaverse via two major possibilities. The first one is to acquire a certain space on an already existing metaverse platform, and the second possibility is to partner with a tech company to create your own metaverse platform/software. According to Everyrealm, formerly known as Republic Realm, there are 4 pioneer metaverses in which you can acquire land: Decentraland, The Sandbox, Cryptovoxels, and Somnium Space. Decentraland is a multiplayer role-playing game developed by two Argentine software engineers. The world centers around a plaza called Genesis City, and all of the parcels (called “Land” in the game) except for roads and plazas can be bought, sold, and developed by the users of the game using “MANA,” Decentraland’s own crypto token, which has a fully diluted market capitalization of about $7 billion. Cryptovoxels is a virtual world built on the Ethereum blockchain by Nolan Consulting, an independent game developer based in Wellington, New Zealand. The main area is a large square continent called "Origin City," and the latter is further subdivided into neighborhoods. Cryptovoxels allows players to display their own NFTs on their property, suitable for art galleries to establish their footprint on the metaverse. The Somnium Space was founded by a Czech Republic-based team in 2017, and its land parcels are located along its river system and are of varying sizes, ranging from small to large. Somnium Cubes (CUBE) is the metaverse’s currency and is based on the Ethereum blockchain (ERC20). Somnium Space managed to forge several partnerships in its metaverse. For instance, Republic Realm built Republic Realm Academy, providing educational initiatives with a virtual classroom, HQ, and gathering spaces. Even though these metaverses might vary in terms of their structure or the currency used, according to Republic Realm, they share a number of defining characteristics: Virtual landowners are free to determine what to develop on their digital property Land can be bought and sold in primary and secondary sales on marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible Players can spend time in the metaverse however they desire Each metaverse has a different number of total land parcels. The total value of all the land in a metaverse is roughly equal to the average price of a parcel multiplied by the total number of parcels (Republic Realm, 2022). Tables 1 and 2 show the total land area and its value. The prices are as of December 2021. Land prices were around USD 20 in December 2017 when Decentraland first held its land auction. In 2021, parcels were sold for an average of over USD 6,000. By the beginning of 2022, prices had increased to reach around USD 15,000 per land token (Influencer Marketing Hub, 2022). Metaverse Parcels and Land Area [caption id="attachment_8551" align="aligncenter" width="517"] Source: Republic Realm – 2021 Metaverse Real Estate Report[/caption]   Metaverse Floor Price and Total Land Value [caption id="attachment_8552" align="aligncenter" width="506"] Source: Republic Realm – 2021 Metaverse Real Estate Report[/caption]   To buy land, for instance, in the Sandbox metaverse, here are the steps to follow: Create an account on The Sandbox metaverse and connect a wallet to it. The purchased land will be stored in the secured wallet Purchase SAND tokens on the Binance platform, or buy Ethereum tokens and convert them to SAND tokens. Transfer the acquired SAND tokens to the Sandbox account Buy land on the Sandbox map by locating available land parcels. Premium lands are highlighted in yellow on the map Aside from these four pioneer metaverses and their available parcel lands, businesses can choose the second option: to build their own metaverse, either by partnering with tech companies specializing in metaverse development or by hiring the necessary staff. There are several metaverse development companies; some of the best include Maticz Technologies, LeewayHertz, Program-Ace, Antier Solutions, and Skywell Software. The cost to develop a metaverse platform starts at a minimum of USD 10,000 (Vandhana, 2022). However, the cost can vary depending on a number of factors, including the client's requirements and demands, the time it takes to develop, the industry, and so on. This being said, a metaverse project’s cost can scale up to USD 300,000 (Vartmann, 2021). In case a company would like to hire its own staff to develop a full internal and decentralized metaverse, according to Leewayhertz, the estimated cost is around USD 15,000 to USD 20,000 per month for a metaverse project with approximately 5 virtual rooms and 20 users for the visiting rooms. However, the development of such a request would require: A decentralized database 3-4 full-stack developers well-versed in React.js and Node.js 1 UI/UX developer 1 UNITY/UNREAL/CRYENGINE developer 3 3D modellers 1 decentralized wallet developer 1 decentralized DApp (Decentralized App) developer   Initiatives launched by companies in the metaverse Besides the tech companies, such as Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, etc., consulting companies are making their first moves toward the metaverse. KPMG, for instance, launched a metaverse collaboration hub in the US and Canada where employees, clients, and communities will connect, engage, and explore opportunities for growth across industries and sectors (KPMG, 2022). Prior to that, PwC Hong Kong acquired a land parcel in the Sandbox metaverse (Animoca Brands, 2021). However, the consulting firm did not reveal the location of the land it purchased or the parcel’s cost. Furthermore, Accenture partnered with Microsoft to develop its metaverse, called the “Nth Floor.” It has digital twins of real offices or research labs. Also, Accenture established a virtual campus inside its metaverse, “One Accenture Park”, which the consulting firm uses for onboarding new hires (Microsoft, 2022). The metaverse is gaining considerable interest and is continuing to grow. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global metaverse market was valued at USD 63.83 billion in 2021. This market size is expected to reach a forecasted value of USD 1.58 trillion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 47.6%. Besides the increased investment coming from venture capital and private equity firms, mergers and acquisitions, and internal corporate investment, other factors such as the ongoing technological advances (5G, mixed reality, blockchain, etc.) and the increased stakeholder (gamer) readiness contribute heavily to the potential value creation in the metaverse, which is expected to generate up to USD 5 trillion by 2030 (McKinsey & Company, 2022).   Author: Mohamed Kamal Zaraba Sources:'s%20metaverse%20includes%20some%20spaces,new%20employees%20go%20for%20onboarding

November 15 2022 | Technology
Streaming services: a new age

No one can disagree that Netflix is the king of streaming right now, a well-deserved place crowned by the many achievements it has accomplished since its inception, most notably bringing streaming media to the forefront. However, its path was not paved with gold. Throughout the two decades and a half of its life, it has known many challenges. In this article, we will delve into the streaming services scene, looking at it through Netflix’s lens, examining how it evolved over time, how it changed the entertainment industry landscape, and finally, exploring some possible scenarios for the streaming world’s future.   Birth of the Video-on-demand (VOD) streaming world   Contrary to popular belief, the first popular streaming service was not Netflix. That title belongs to YouTube, which started streaming videos on its platform in 2005. There have been many small tech organizations that may have done streaming on their own network, but with limited success. Netflix, on the other hand, started offering its iconic service two years later, in 2007. Still, for all intents and purposes, and given the different business models of the two businesses, over the next few paragraphs, we will often refer to Netflix as the “first” VOD streaming service. Netflix was the brainchild of two entrepreneurs, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph; they launched their company in 1997, right in the middle of the internet bubble, where anything “.com” was almost guaranteed to be a success. It was in this scene that Netflix was introduced. When the Internet bubble burst, it all came tumbling down. Surviving it was the first hurdle that the nascent company had to overcome. With Marc Randolph as its helmsman, he steered the ship into the 2000s. By that time, the company was hemorrhaging money; its video-on-demand business model was bleeding it dry, a challenging problem that was the catalyst for its current subscription business model. Instead of renting DVDs, which would have had to generate 15 to 20 rent-outs for the company to break even, the company shifted to a recurring business model—the subscription model—which allowed it to lock customers in, resulting in a much higher conversion rate. Its second innovation was the queue system, where customers would select the movies they would like to watch next. This had two major consequences: it reinforced the customer conversion rate and justified the elimination of late fee charges since subscribers were more eager to receive their next film.   David and Goliath   During its early years, Netflix was not profitable; it attained that status much later, in 2006, to be precise. To alleviate the financial pressure, they sought out Blockbuster, which was a DVD rental giant back in its heyday and an icon of the 90s. When Netflix’s founder proposed the sale of 49% of the company’s stake for 50 million USD, Blockbuster declined the offer. Today, Netflix is valued at 106 billion USD, while the former giant has atrophied to a single store in Bend, Oregon, a true modern David, and Goliath story.   The streaming wars The most prominent players: The word “wars” might seem a bit dramatic here, but once we delve deeper into the ins and outs of that period of time, which saw the clash of industry titans, no words can be more befitting. However, before we move into that, we will be introducing the main players on the scene that have shaped or are shaping the current landscape: Netflix: Netflix needs no introduction; it has already etched itself a name in the history of entertainment, from its humble beginnings to becoming a household tech/media company with an offering of over 17,000 titles internationally. On the artistic front, the company boasts 182 Emmy awards for its Netflix originals (between 2013 and 2022) and 16 Oscars as of the moment of writing this article. Prime Video: Prime Video is a subscription video on-demand over-the-top streaming and rental service from Amazon. The streaming service prides itself on having a catalogue of a staggering 24,000 movies and over 2,100 shows to choose from. Much to the delight of its viewers, the platform’s offering will be nourished thanks to the recent deal that Amazon struck to acquire MGM in May 2021. They will be able to enjoy popular franchises such as “Rocky”, “James Bond”, and "The Real Housewives". Not to mention the latest installment of the Lord of the Rings universe, “The rings of power”, a series that cost the studio a shocking 1 billion dollars to produce, an investment that will be detrimental to the studio’s future, according to a company insider. Apple TV+: Another giant that decided to foray into the streaming service world, launching its service in November of 2019, Apple is set on carving itself a piece of that cake, and so far, it seems to be doing just right. A reflection of its success can be seen in the 2022 Oscar ceremony, where the company made history with “CODA” winning Best Picture, a first for any streaming video company. Not to mention that the company has the highest average IMDB score among its peers, standing at a 7.08 IMD average, which might be largely due to its limited library of content, but if the recent awards that the company garnered are anything to go by, the platform seems to be focusing more on quality than quantity. Disney+: Following in the footsteps of Apple TV+, a long overdue step for Disney, they announced their own streaming service, Disney+, in November of 2019, the same month as Apple. The two-year-old platform has become a streaming behemoth in its own right, offering around 500 films, 15,000 episodes, and 80 Disney+ originals (UK Disney+ offering), allowing viewers to access some of the most beloved franchises (e.g., Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and so on). HBO Max: HBO Max has been around for only two years, but it has capitalized on the legacy of its namesake, “HBO”, a household name in the entertainment industry that has been around for decades. With many productions being generational defining pop cultural icons, such as “The Sopranos”, “The wire”, “Game of Thrones”, and the current crown jewel, “House of the dragon” which got off to a very good start and seems to be going full steam ahead with HBO reporting a record-breaking 25 million viewers for its first two episodes, and with more series being developed in the fantasy world created by George RR Martin, HBO Max’s star can only shine brighter. Not to mention the planned merger with the discovery+ streaming service, which will bring a whole new catalog to the service along with its subscribers.   The late mouse gets the cheese: Until recently, Netflix enjoyed its position as the undisputed king of the streaming world, well ensconced on its throne, until the big studios realized the potential of the market; this paved the way to the so-called “streaming wars”. Prior to 2018, consumers had to navigate a limited offering of streaming services, mainly Netflix, Amazon prime, and Hulu, plus a few smaller niche players. However, the arrival of Disney + and apple TV+ changed the scene dramatically, with both capturing huge market shares and leaving Netflix hanging by a thread. This culminated in the company announcing its first negative subscriber growth for the first time in a decade, a hiccup that was further compounded by the news that, in the last quarter (Q3 2022), Disney edged past Netflix’s total number of subscribers with a total of 221 million subscribers. Although this total includes Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu subscribers, it is a significant blow to Netflix, which has held first place for far too long than any real competition would allow. *Data for Amazon video prime is based on a late 2021 amazon announcement, * Data for Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu are from Disney’s Q3 2022 earning call, *Netflix numbers from Q2 2022 earning call, *HBO & HBO max numbers are from Q1 2022, * Apple provided few financial details about Apple TV+, the number in the chart is an estimate,   Streaming services: A new age At first, the streaming service world seemed like the perfect cure for a sickness that plagued cable TV: fragmentation. There were too many cable TV providers for consumers to choose from and not enough money to spend. Then came the likes of Netflix, a much-needed solution to a problem that overstayed its welcome. By producing and licensing productions from various companies, it provided the most extensive catalogue to consumers. This strategy was going Netflix’s way for a while, until the major media conglomerates realized that they could get a piece of the streaming cake. Streaming platforms started to mushroom all over the place, fragmenting the market further and further, going full circle to the point that started all of this, and putting strain on consumers and even more stress on streaming companies that would have to fight for market share. In the face of rising competition, companies are trying new avenues to distinguish themselves, some of which are: Investing in content: in the streaming world, content is king, which is why so many companies are spending literal billions to reinforce their existing catalogs. To that end, Disney is the forerunner, spending approximately $33 billion, followed closely by Netflix, which is allocating a budget of $19 billion for its TV shows and movies; meanwhile, the other industry giant, prime videos, seems to have budgeted $13 billion in 2021, whereas Apple is very cagey about its budget for its TV shows and movies. One thing is certain: whatever that budget is, Apple would be able to afford it. Ad tiers: In an effort to stem the losses sustained last quarter, Netflix is intending to launch a cheaper ad-supported tier. The new offer was set to be available starting 2023, but in light of the recent announcement by Disney, which is planning on launching the same product for its streaming platform Disney+, Netflix has advanced its release date to November in an effort to get ahead of Disney+’s planned launch. Raising prices: According to BBC news, the price of ad-free Disney+ will increase by 38% to $10.99, a $3 per month increase starting in December. The same thing is true for Hulu, where prices for the offering without ads will rise by $2 per month, from $12.99 to $14.99. As for Netflix, the service’s basic plan now costs $9.99 per month (up from $8.99), its standard tier costs $15.49 per month (up from $13.99), and its 4K tier costs $19.99 per month (up from $17.99). All in all, whether those price increases would prove fruitful or push consumers away is yet to be seen. The least that can be said about the streaming industry right now is that it has already entered the second phase of the streaming war. Unlike the first phase, which was characterized by the launches of new streaming platforms left and right, this new phase seems to be of a different nature; it is more fitting to call it a war of attrition. With many platforms being backed by industry giants such as Disney +, Prime Video, and Apple TV+, companies that can withstand a prolonged war thanks to their diversified portfolios and deep pockets (Disney has already stated it plans to lose money on Disney+ until 2024), this puts Netflix in a delicate position. Depending on streaming as its main source of income and being deprived of its popular licensed products, the future looks uncertain for the streaming giant. Author: Badr Kamli Sources: Was Netflix the First Streaming Service? - DIY SmartThings The Netflix Revolution - History of Netflix (2022 Updated) ( I visited the last Blockbuster and it was a blast from the past ( As the streaming wars enter phase 2, TV takes inspiration from the past ( Disney edges past Netflix in streaming subscribers as it raises ad-free prices | Walt Disney Company | The Guardian FY2022_Q3_PR_Ex99.1 ( Emmy Awards: Netflix nominations and wins 2013-2022 | Statista What Is Amazon Prime Video? a Breakdown of Everything You Need to Know ( Twitter / Twitter Apple TV+ has highest average IMDb score of any streaming service | iMore Which streaming service is the best value for money? | Self. ‘Succession’ Wins Best Drama at Emmys as HBO Triumphs Again - The New York Times ( Investors alarmed as streaming services lose their magic touch | Netflix | The Guardian What the Top 7 Streamers Will Spend on Content in 2022 | IndieWire Yes, Netflix just got even more expensive - The Verge

August 03 2022 | Technology
How is virtual reality changing business?

After years of research and improvements, virtual reality (VR) has now hit the mainstream. Tech giants like Google, Facebook, Samsung, HTC, Huawei, and many others have been introducing VR devices that bring realistic worlds to life. In the 1990s, virtual reality was mostly associated with science fiction movies and games. Virtual reality is increasingly seen as a technological powerhouse in a multitude of industries, including healthcare, education, training, and retail. History Before delving into the current role of virtual reality and its future prospects, let's take a look back at how it all began. The first virtual reality device, Sensorama, was used by a cinematographer named Morton Heilig in the 1950s. The Sensorama machine featured a built-in seat used for 3D movies and generated vibrations and sounds to make the users feel as though they were a part of the movie. Since then, many pioneering innovators have been motivated to create new gadgets that deliver a high-quality experience, such as the Oculus, PlayStation VR, and others. Virtual reality use cases VR has several business use cases where it is improving processes, safety, and knowledge in many firms.   Retail Ikea: A whole new home and retail VR application In 2016, Ikea launched a one-of-a-kind virtual reality kitchen in Australia, allowing customers to explore a virtual kitchen and visualize its features. This immersive experience was set up to influence the way customers shop for IKEA products. Through this feature, customers could choose different types of fabric, wall colors, and lighting depending on their preferences. This way, Ikea inspires confidence and helps in customers' decision-making. Nike: VR experience in Nike stores Some of Nike’s physical stores are equipped with VR tools. Nike offers clients a virtual reality experience that immerses them in various phases of the supply chain. Customers can scan items such as shoes or apparel to access information about the item. They can also enter a virtual reality environment to experience the many processes in Nike's supply chain and walk through Nike’s manufacturing process.   Manufacturing Boeing: The use of VR to upgrade the Boeing manufacturing process Boeing is using VR in the manufacturing of the 737 MAX 10. This experience allows engineers to visualize the manufacturing process, the tools, and the technologies displayed so they can predict potential problems. All of that helps engineers gather data, make any necessary changes, and incorporate these changes into the production system. The company also uses VR for wiring airplanes. Using VR, technicians can readily identify where the electrical wire runs by walking around the airplane, examining the wire renderings in full detail, and receiving instructions hands-free. Renault: The Renault Group's Virtual Reality and Immersive Simulation Center The Renault Group uses virtual reality for vehicle-related virtual design. Virtual reality helps the engineers see the vehicle architecture through an immersive 3D experience and upgrade the designs of the trucks. It allows the designers to test the vehicles without having to make a physical prototype, which saves time and costs and helps in decision-making. Training Verizon: VR to enhance employees' self-defense Verizon, which is a wireless network operator, has started using VR for training to guide employees through dangerous scenarios. Verizon is investing heavily in training its employees. The company is offering self-defense training to teach its employees how to act in case of a robbery or any attack on their commercial shops. Verizon gives headsets to their employees and teaches them how to defend themselves in case of a robbery. This is done by displaying all the steps and instructions to be followed.   The future of VR in business According to Statista, virtual reality is rapidly expanding. The consumer and corporate VR industry is predicted to exceed USD 12 billion in 2024, up from USD 4 billion in 2020. According to the projections, businesses are very interested in this technology and are willing to invest in it as it saves time and money and allows them to keep up with the market's technological advances. [caption id="attachment_8295" align="aligncenter" width="543"] Statista[/caption] VR headset unit sales are expected to increase significantly from 5 million headsets in 2020 to 14 million headsets in 2024. Analysts are also expecting an upgrade to more fashionable, accessible, and small devices. Otherwise, interest is significantly turning to VR in business, which will automatically increase sales of devices and foster competition between the biggest producers to innovate and discover more features that will make the experience more enjoyable. [caption id="attachment_8317" align="aligncenter" width="568"] Statista[/caption] To conclude, virtual reality is shaping the future and is significantly evolving compared to the last few years. To that end, the world's largest technology companies, such as Google, Microsoft, and Sony, are making significant efforts to innovate and keep up with changing and rapidly expanding markets. This is so palpable throughout the investment in virtual reality devices. Being successful today is more about being open to new technologies than it is about mastering processes and value chains. Otherwise, being present in a highly competitive market is not something easy, and companies are aware of how technologies can make a difference, bump sales, inspire confidence, and help in decision making.   Author: Abdesslam Falsy Sources:

Automotive Industry: What the future holds

  The rapid evolution of technology has opened multiple doors for innovation. Despite the economic plunge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, industries all over the world are trying to recover. Even better, they are coming back with greater visions. Industries have been increasingly focusing on developing unique and innovative products designed to address current needs while incorporating futuristic features. The automotive industry is no exception. For decades, car producers and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) challenged themselves to offer customers a wide variety of cars, equipped with the latest technologies. Opportunities in the automotive industry seem nearly endless. However, two key trends are set to further push the automotive industry forward in the long run: electrification and connectivity. These trends are mainly driven by policy changes and technology.   Electrification   Initiatives & Regulations Electrification in the automotive industry refers to the replacement of a car’s Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) with an electric battery. Cars equipped with such “Engine” are referred to as Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), or simply EVs. One of their main benefits is their contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction, which is highly encouraged by policymakers and governments through various initiatives and regulations. Among these is the European Union’s “Fit for 55” program, which aims to reduce GHG emissions by 55% by 2030 (McKinsey, 2021). As for the US, President Biden announced a new target of up to a 52% GHG reduction by 2030 (The White House, 2021). In Asia, India aims for a 45% reduction target by the same year (BBC, 2021). However, China, the world’s number one in CO2 emissions, is still behind in such initiatives, having announced that it would reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2035 and achieve neutrality by 2060 (IHS Markit, 2021). Incentives Besides the regulations, governments have introduced several incentives to encourage the use of EVs. In Europe, for instance, France and Poland offer grants which can go up to EUR 6,000, if some conditions are met, for the purchase of an electric or hybrid car. Italy provides incentives of up to 40% of the purchase price as well as tax exemptions for the first 5 years. In the US, car buyers can benefit from a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. In Asia, China proposed a tax exemption on purchases for 2 years, and India offers a subsidy of INR 10,000 ($136.4) per kWh. Future projections Electric vehicles are projected to become more widely available globally. Some countries are even planning to completely ban the sale of diesel cars, leaving electric vehicles with essentially no competition. In 2020, more than 10 million electric cars were on the road globally. This number is set to grow to 300 million vehicles by 2030, according to the Net Emissions by 2050 Scenario (IEA, 2021). OEMs are also determined to increase their EV car production. According to the research team of Credit Suisse Global Auto, the global EV production share of total vehicle production is set to increase from 11% in 2020 to 62% in 2030, with the number of fully electric vehicles projected to reach around 29 million. (Embedded Computing, 2021). While these figures might seem too ambitious, many OEMs have already started taking initiatives to reach that goal. For instance, Volkswagen Group, converted its German plant in Zwickau to produce EVs instead of ICE vehicles, making it the first large-scale EV production plant worldwide. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), on the other hand, started on R&D of BEVs after a loan securement of EUR 749 million (Autovista, 2022). By 2030, several OEMs plan to reach about 50% as an EV fleet. Percentage of OEM EV Fleet Over Time [caption id="attachment_8218" align="aligncenter" width="440"] Source: Embedded Computing[/caption]   Sales of EVs are forecasted to represent 60% of all new vehicle sales, compared to 4.6% in 2020 (IEA, 2021).  Projected EV Car Sales in Units [caption id="attachment_8223" align="aligncenter" width="443"] Source: International Energy Agency[/caption]   Electric Vehicle Chargers Market The electric vehicle charger market is also expected to grow at a CAGR of 26.8% (2020-2027) to reach USD 25.5 billion by 2027. A fast scenario projection done by the International Energy Agency sees the number of chargers publicly available around the world reaching 2.5 million chargers by 2030, from only 385,678 chargers in 2020. One example of government incentives encouraging charging installation is France. The country offers a tax grant of up to EUR 300 per person for the installation of a charging station at home. This shows the emphasis governments place on making sure that it is more convenient to own an electric vehicle rather than a diesel engine car.   Connectivity   Apart from electrification, connectivity through technology is another factor contributing to the race to build the cars of the future. From digital screens to external platforms such as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, we have witnessed the introduction of several connectivity features in the automotive industry in the last decade. Yet, the automotive industry is still looking for new ways to innovate. With the continuous efforts to integrate 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), automotive connectivity can only be seen as imminent. The three pillars of connectivity Connectivity can be separated into three pillars: infotainment, telematics, and infrastructure. Infotainment represents the link between the passengers and the vehicle, including in-car entertainment, integrated digital cockpit, heads-up display, and Wi-Fi. Telematics consists of the monitoring of information through telecommunication devices, including the cloud. It can allow the car to gather data on the driver’s behavior, for example. The infrastructure connects the car to its surroundings, allowing it to recognize and distinguish traffic lights, pedestrians, and even other vehicles with the same feature(s). Automation (Level 5) Several features within automotive connectivity are growing, and one of them is driving automation. Connectivity will soon enable OEMs to provide the ultimate level of driving automation — level 5. Level 5 is the full automation level where the vehicle performs all the driving aspects without any supervision or human interaction requirements. According to a McKinsey report, this ultimate level is expected to be reached and widely adopted by 2030. Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Another feature is the Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) connectivity, which enables vehicles to “talk” to each other through real-time data sharing. For instance, Stellantis, the joint venture between Fiat-Chrysler-Alfa Romeo (FCA) and the French PSA group, announced last year its software strategy, which aims to provide 36 million connected cars by 2030, through a 4-year investment of more than EUR 30 billion (Stellantis, 2021). Mercedes-Benz also announced plans to reach 20 million fully connected vehicles by 2025 (Automotive World, 2020). Future projections In 2020, the connected car market was worth around USD 55.6 billion, with nearly 47.5 million connected cars circulating worldwide. This same market is set to reach USD 191.83 billion, growing by 245% in 8 years (Carzato, 2021). By 2025, connected vehicles are expected to attain a share of 53%. The latter is expected to grow even more, reaching 77% by 2030 (Ericsson, 2021).   Overall, the automotive industry is heading towards a brighter and cleaner future. OEMs are extensively working on their R&D to create cars tailored to the customers’ needs and suitable for the environment. While electrification will play a big role in reducing GHG emissions, connectivity will provide customers with interactivity and more comfort. What does this mean for OEMs? There will certainly be a massive need for expert skillsets to develop these cars of the future. Partnerships between car manufacturers might be a solution to overcome the skillset shortage. As for consumers, the main topic of debate will be data privacy. Connectivity will require access and storage of data, meaning that your personal car will have data on exactly where you have been every single time. However, according to Deloitte, this would not be an issue as consumers might consent to share their own data with their car’s laptop, provided this would allow them to save time or money, and it would provide them with a safe driving experience.   Author: Mohamed Kamal Sources:,local%20incentives%20may%20also%20apply.,to%20%24191.83%20billion%20by%202028.

The Good, the bad, and the ugly: Deep dive into NFT’s future

  After attracting mainstream attention when Beeple sold his NFT collection for a whopping $69 million at Christie’s (1), the non-fungible token marketplace registered an unprecedented boom by the end of 2021, with sales recording a 21,000% jump compared to 2020’s numbers, according to a report from NFT data company “”, partnered with BNP Paribas’s L’Atelier (2). While the future of this market remains open to speculation, we will explore three possible scenarios the NFT market might experience based on examples of real NFT projects.   Blockchain & Ethereum: Key enablers of NFTs To better speculate on the future scenarios of NFTs, we need to gain a better understanding of their foundation, specifically Blockchain, which serves as the backbone of NFTs. Blockchain was developed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, becoming a massive enabler for change in a broken system. Blockchain records all transactions in a way that makes it nearly impossible to hack, cheat, or change the system. The goal behind this technology was to create a new decentralized monetary system by transferring control and decision-making from centralized entities to a distributed network. The major blockchain innovations were cryptocurrencies (e.g., Bitcoin, Ethereum…) and NFTs. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency that can be obtained in the same manner that a national currency can be exchanged for a foreign currency. The only difference is that instead of going to banks, people can exchange their money on secure platforms such as Coinbase or Metamask (3). Although banks might be considered a more secure option given the fact that they are insured, crypto exchanges are far more secure since they are built on Blockchain technology, which ensures that every touchpoint is tracked, making it near impossible for any transaction to be hacked. Ethereum provides an additional versatile platform to other cryptos, which allows developers to implement Smart Contracts, improving traceability and verification (4).   1st Scenario: -The Good- NFTs Advantages and use cases as an enabler for a better future Historically, the economy works in such a way that the final consumer earns money, which he then spends on buying physical goods. However, with the advent of digital tools (social media, gaming, streaming…), consumption habits are changing. Transactions are shifting away from physical goods and more toward digital goods, which poses a problem: digital goods are harder to monetize. Consider the following example: an artist creates a physical painting that he attempts to sell, and someone attempts to produce replicas of his artwork. The buyer, in this case, would be able to tell the difference between the authentic and “fake” painting (brush strokes, signature, etc.). However, in the case of a digital artist, painting the same piece of art on his digital tool, he runs the risk of losing control over the asset the moment he puts it up for sale (as a JPEG image), given how easy it is to make copies, which would then look identical to the original art form, causing it to lose scarcity and thus value. This is what NFTs are trying to change. Based on Blockchain technology, NFTs can indisputably verify the original version of a digital product, which is attributed to a one-of-a-kind token of ownership that has a unique value. So, when people are trading NFTs, what they are really doing is buying and selling their virtual ownership of something. Based on this formula, we will present 3 future usages of NFTs that can potentially change how we perceive the digital world.   Community -Bored Ape Yacht Club- While the bar regarding customer relationship is currently set so low in many NFT projects (essentially no customer relationship after the transaction), there is one collection of NFTs called the “Bored Ape Yacht Club”, with 10,000 unique ape images (the cheapest one going for $200,000). The point is, we regularly find that superstars (Neymar, Post Malone, etc.) and people who own these NFTs are using these photos everywhere, as a symbol of pride that they’re part of this exclusive club. On top of that, the creators of this Bored Ape collection organize physical get-togethers for people who own a bored ape NFT (5). Although this remains the exception, for now, we can expect a brighter future for NFT projects following a similar, or inspired approach, giving more than ownership of an NFT. Gaming -Blankos Block Party- Many companies are betting that NFTs will enter the video game world in a big way, which, if successful, could introduce NFTs to a massive new audience and forever change the way we value digital objects. Think of this: gamers already spend money on buying and selling game keys, digital weapons, and rare skins (cosmetic gear). Although these operate on legally dicey ground, it’s the game developer that ultimately owns the traded goods, not the players. A good example that comes to mind is Counter Strike: Global Offensive, which has always had one of the most significant grey markets, with players allegedly spending $100,000 on a specific weapon skin (6). This is where Blankos comes into play. The game operates on the premises of accessibility, ownership, and scarcity. It is a free title where players can collect, customize, or sell NFTs of characters and objects created by developers and major brands. The results so far speak for themselves. Blankos entered early access in June 2021. One week later, it recorded 100,000 NFT purchases, with major brands and artists including Burberry, Quiccs, and Deadmau5 launching in-game items (7). Documentation -Blockcerts- It is possible to use NFTs to verify documentation, such as certifications, diplomas, medical histories, passports, etc. For example, when it comes to academic credentials, hiring managers can quickly verify the certifications and degrees of job candidates. This would be a huge breakthrough to prevent fraud and smooth the verification processes. Blockcerts is a blockchain-based service that already makes it possible to verify academic credentials (8). However, it doesn’t use NFT technology quite yet, which would make it even more useful in the future.   2nd Scenario: -The bad- NFTs, the next financial bubble The NFT market has lately been criticized for being a bubble. A report from “” presents the market as a buyers’ market. In fact, while the number of NFT sellers increased by a mind-blowing 3,669% compared to last year, the number of buyers increased by “only” 2,962%. The report also finds that NFTs are kept for only 48 days on average in 2021 before being sold, compared to 156 days the year before (9). This sparks concerns that the market might be saturated. Additionally, looking at NFT’s “Silent Crash”, which occurred in April 2021, the floor value of NFTs dropped significantly. Although prices had been slowly dropping since February 2021, as buyers weren’t investing or buying and sellers had to drop their prices because the market wasn’t moving, the NFT market took a hit. By June 2021, news headlined that the NFT market had officially crashed, falling nearly 90% from its peak (in May) (10). Eventually, the NFT market survived, mainly with NFT buyers showing an upward trend, helped by athletes and celebrities showing off their NFT collectibles. Fast forward to March 2022, where the average sale price of an NFT is now below $2,000, down from over $6,800 in January, according to Nonfungible (11). Even the Bored Ape Yacht Club, one of the best names in the NFT sphere, has seen its value slip. Not so long ago, the NFT market capitalization had reached $23 million. By April 21st, 2022, it was barely over $10 million, according to CoinMarketCap(12) . Although this drop may seem to be caused by a variety of factors, such as inflation, the Ukrainian/Russian war, as well as the increased scrutiny of NFTs by the Securities and Exchange Commission, skeptics are still warning of an NFT collapse, described as a “cataclysmic market crash” (13).   3rd Scenario: -The ugly- NFTs, scam, cash grab, and environmental disaster The more people discover about how NFTs are currently being used, the more concerned they get about what is yet to come. In fact, while NFTs were created with the intention of respecting the artist, the majority of them now are being used as cash grabs by opportunistic business owners. As an example, we can take a look at the Lazy Lions, which have been described as mass-produced, computer-generated cash grabs that have been manipulating the market (14). Additionally, almost all NFT transactions use Ethereum, which is not environmentally friendly, to say the least. Ethereum uses a security mechanism called proof of work, which is what makes the NFTs fraud-proof. This security measure requires a significant number of computers around the world to be working simultaneously, resulting in high electricity consumption. While many do not see how NFTs could be the next big thing in the digital world, some see it as a digital breakthrough. NFTs are believed to be putting power and economic control back into the hands of digital creators and pushing forward the next internet revolution. This being said, NFTs have a long way to go to reach this potential. Sources: 1: The Wall Street Journal: Your NFT Sold for $69 Million. 2: The 2021 NFT Market Report: Presented by Non-fungible and L’Atelier 3: Forbes: How to Buy a Cryptocurrency? 4: Ethereum: What’s an NFT ? 5: CNET: Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs: Everything you need to know 6: Ginx: Someone bought a CS:GO Skin for $100,000. 7: Engadget: Blankos Block Party is an NFT Trojan Horse for the video game industry 8: 9: The 2021 NFT Market Report: Presented by Non-fungible and L’Atelier 10: Kotaku The NFT Market Has Collapsed, Oh No 11: 12: CoinMarketCap/Nft 13: Fortune: NFT Collector predicts the market is about to crash 14: NFT evening: Lazy lions market manipulation

April 18 2022 | Technology
Cloud gaming industry overview: Which industry giant has the edge?

The technology sector has experienced a very difficult year in 2021 on many levels. The global shortage of chips affected many high-value industries. The year 2022 does not look much different with major supply chain concerns. But it's not all doom and gloom. The tech sector and the gaming industry specifically are known for their great adaptability.  The cloud gaming market is led by several giant companies with various models, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Intel, Nvidia, and Sony.  But what is cloud gaming about? How does it work?  Cloud gaming promises top-notch graphics and performance without the need for expensive hardware or extensive updates or downloads. Instead of having a high-end PC gaming console at home, cloud gaming platforms run the software from a remote data center. Amazon, Microsoft, EA, Sony, Facebook, and Google are betting that the emerging business of cloud gaming will become the future of the gaming industry and an alternative solution to the supply chain issues faced by the sector. Amazon Amazon Luna is only available in early access, which means users must receive an invitation to sign up for the service. However, users of Fire TV and/or Fire Tablet devices, don't need an invitation and can instantly sign up for one or more of Amazon Luna's subscription plans. Buyers can purchase the Luna Controller even if they don't have an Amazon Luna subscription. Amazon Luna has three "Channels" subscription packages, which give access to different game selections.  At the same time, Amazon has an extremely important competitive advantage, namely its video game streaming platform, Twitch. In 2020, there were about 41.5 million Twitch users in the U.S., and that number is expected to grow to 51.6 million by 2024. Twitch remains a high potential tool for Amazon to switch or even onboard users to its cloud gaming platform. It seems Amazon has a well-laid plan to take the crown of cloud gaming platforms. It's hard to say whether Luna will be a success, as the cloud gaming service is still in its infancy. Also, when comparing Amazon Luna to other cloud gaming services, from Xbox's xCloud to PS Now, it doesn't seem to attract many gamers. However, at a price point of $5.99, Luna is ideal for those just getting into cloud gaming. That said, Amazon's cloud gaming service behaves similarly to its larger competitors: even with a great internet connection, gamers will notice a slight delay. One of the key factors in Amazon Luna's success compared to other platforms is the way the service is approached as a whole: no additional fees when a new game is introduced, no hidden charges, and consistent quality of service. Amazon has acted differently in its strategy, focusing on what consumers want - better access to the games they already love or look forward to and not exploiting its platform to promote and highlight its games as Google Stadia did, which has had a positive effect on user perception. The idea of exclusivity is not as important as it used to be, and the release of a library of Google Stadia exclusives is a testament to that.  Nvidia GeForce Now Nvidia did not let the opportunity pass without launching its streaming platform. The final version of its GeForce Now was launched in February 2020 after several beta versions and offers three levels of service. GeForce now service is not a platform with a catalog of games like Luna, but more of an access to a selection of compatible games from Steam, Epic Games, GoG, or Uplay game stores. With Cloud Play, Steam integrates GeForce Now directly into its platform, which makes it possible to play directly on Nvidia's servers from the Steam client with a few clicks.  A pertinent question arises in this case, what's the point of subscribing to the GeForce Now service if the service will also redirect us to another game store?  The answer lies in the fact that Nvidia offers these games on high-performance servers, so the real service is the rental of servers included in the subscription, such as its RTX 3080 which delivers the ultra-performance that gamers crave. However, Nvidia's weak point is the lack of agreement with some publishers who explicitly refuse to offer their games on the service.  Nvidia's GeForce Now has a free tier, but the best experience costs $10 a month for the priority tier or $100 every six months for the new RTX 3080 tier (graphics cards deliver the ultra-performance that gamers crave), which allows 1440p gaming at 120Hz. Since the end of 2021, a third level is available, using RTX 3080. This power boost allows for a 1440p definition at 120 frames per second. The servers are also separated, with an Adaptive-Sync system. PS Now – Sony Sony, one of the leaders of the gaming market in the world, offers through its PlayStation Now platform a catalog of more than 600 games available for streaming in 720p definition. Sony’s experience in the gaming market with the PlayStation, as well as its large user base, have contributed to the company’s smooth transition into cloud gaming. The service, which has several million subscribers, offers its catalog of PS4 games for download on a PS4 or PS5, which can be played even offline and in native definition.  Faced with the competition, Sony had the idea of offering each month strong games from its catalog such as Metro Exodus or Spider-Man that are available temporarily, usually for three months, in the catalog. This was for the gaming giant, a way to remedy the fact that the catalog of games is a bit sparse in recent titles. Google Stadia Google was one of the first entrants into the cloud gaming market in 2019. The concept was neither more nor less than a dematerialized game console. The platform's compatibility makes it accessible on a TV using a Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia controller, on a PC with Google Chrome, and on Android with the official app. In early February 2021, Google decided to shut down its video game studio after several technical problems, in addition to its very limited catalog of games. Google could not take advantage of the promising start of the service. Stadia’s hastened launch, compared to other operators, had implications that contributed to its fall. Unlike the other players in the gaming industry, Google did not have much to show for it, except for the technology, which is mainly seen in the games offered on Stadia. The company had to find expensive solutions to feed its catalog by introducing third-party games on the platform such as Red Dead Redemption, which would have cost tens of millions of dollars. Stadia's case has prompted other players to seek third-party support before launch, coupled with a strong lineup of exclusives. This experience has shown that being the first to enter the market does not ensure an advantage, even when backed by significant funding. Microsoft: Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) Microsoft has launched its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offer in September 2020. The company has benefited from its gaming successes (Gears of War, Forza, Halo, etc.), but has also made use of games from third-party studios or independent games. Every month, new games are added to the catalog, which ensures that xCloud has a strong position among users. Potential entrants Apple, Netflix, and Facebook have thought about launching their own cloud gaming services. Electronic Arts also wants to enter the race. The game publisher announced at "The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2018" that it is developing its cloud gaming service. In October 2018, EA's CTO Ken Moss said that this cloud gaming service was called Project Atlas, but the offerings of this product remain unclear. This service should combine Frostbite (graphics engine designed by DICE for EA), servers in the cloud, and artificial intelligence.    Cloud gaming is transforming the video game market, with all the main players in digital technologies either already offering or currently developing their cloud gaming services. However, some players remain very discreet on the subject. The diversity of products and packages offered by Amazon, the flexibility in the use of its hardware, and the monopoly on streaming with its famous platform, Twitch, which continues to attract millions of users each year, make Amazon a major player in the sector. Amazon could also allow Twitch streamers to earn revenue from streaming Luna games and encourage viewers to join them in the game using Luna. There is also the prospect of a "Play on Luna" feature eventually appearing on Amazon as an alternative to buying physical or digital copies, although publishers may have a big problem with that. Cloud gaming has everything to be the future of video games, although it is not ready yet to completely replace home computers and consoles. The technology is in its infancy, and its development would depend on advancements in connectivity to provide a better alternative to gaming machines. 5G offerings could be a catalyst for the cloud gaming industry, eliminating connectivity issues and enhancing user experience.   Sources:  

April 11 2022 | Technology
From Telcos to Techcos

  The telecommunications landscape has been ever-changing since the emergence of the competitive operators’ market in the 1980s. While traditionally players in this market have been known for providing their network services and infrastructure, nowadays, many telco operators are reporting a decrease in average revenues per user under these segments, which led to investors shying away. This new dynamic is mostly due to the diversification of consumer needs in the now technologically driven ecosystem, and telco players are not letting this golden opportunity pass by. The global abundance of tech is slowly but surely creating a new type of players in the industry, often referred to as Techcos. These players seek to differentiate their offerings, by providing tech-based products and services such as artificial intelligence (AI) analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), network automation, cloud…etc.   Opportunities There are many positive outcomes that come with the diversification of telco players’ offerings into techs, such as performance improvement, a competitive edge in big data, and new revenue streams. New systems and tools such as IoT, data analytics, and cloud help players across the telecom industry reduce costs and cut down on resource waste. Furthermore, many jobs in the telecommunications industry can benefit from utilizing software services to improve their processes, such as technicians, line installers, and media providers. This entails the use of new technology to automate systems and increase performance for the tasks in question. Another opportunity that results from the shift to Techcos is the utilization of cloud technology specifically, which can help telco providers in delivering better and faster services to both channels (businesses and consumers). These new digital services can include the use of AI and machine learning (ML) infrastructures to increase the performance provided. This feature of the combined use of data and AI is unique to the emerging Techco players, who are already experienced at handling large-scale data, thus giving them a differentiating edge over their major cloud vendors/other tech competitors. Finally, 5G technology opens a new major revenue stream in digitization and the IoT market, which offers ground for new businesses and business models to develop and grow. The latter will see the telco players as more than just network providers but a digital marketplace that offers the possibility to monetize assets. This new segment has shone a light on the future of telcos, which would have been otherwise bleak had they continued to remain only a connectivity provider.   Risks On the other hand, there are also challenges to the launch of telco players in ICT services, such as some players’ choice of the wrong approach, the obstacle of converting to customer-centric solutions, and the building of efficient partnerships. One of the key downsides is for players who chose to dive into the tech industry too quickly. Many have attempted to hastily convert their traditional services and offerings into the cloud, expecting to meet their customers’ needs. However, these players have underestimated the various complex aspects of this transition, which resulted in them incurring higher than expected costs. As they later discovered, the most effective approach for this transition is to use a hybrid model that encompasses aspects from both the traditional and new models. While the shift to digital offerings opens a new market for these telco players, such as the possibility of IoT solutions. Techcos must seek to become more than just commodity connectivity providers. The challenge is not to offer the fastest or most reliable network, but to become a solution provider, which entails a sense of “digital empathy” for their clients. This is to say that to achieve the desired results the shift must occur in a comprehensive manner that allows for the adoption of a new operating system, which considers all elements – from connectivity to infrastructure, to user security and customer-focused services. Finally, this transformation requires the players in the industry to become a sort of “one-stop-shop” for both B2B and B2B2C channels, thus taking on the responsibility that was once undertaken by ICT players who traditionally developed the tech used for the telco network. This shift, therefore, calls for partnerships and investments in both automation and the workforce in this field.   COVID-19 Impact The digitalization of the telco market, which is a feature of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), has been sped up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because of the highlighted need for a global digital transformation, consequently showing the potential for telcos to gain new streams of revenues. The COVID-19 outbreak has highlighted the fact that the telco industry is on the front lines of the world economy. Telco players are therefore aiming to keep the community connected and to ensure continuity in business operations during and after the pandemic. It also shows that advanced technology such as AI and 5G are critical to delivering solutions and platforms that can help navigate the pandemic. The cloud-computing segment, which was already gaining increasing popularity, has also become a catalyst of growth for telcos thanks to the pandemic. The flourishing demand for collaboration, remote work, and SaaS applications is helping companies profit from the surge of digital transformation. [caption id="attachment_8068" align="aligncenter" width="393"] Source: BusinessWire[/caption]   Use Cases: MTN and Vodafone One of the leading examples of this shift can be seen in Africa’s biggest telco company MTN. This player announced its rebranding into a technology company in February of 2022. The shift also involves a logo change that is part of MTN’s newly adopted “Ambition 2025” strategy, aimed at providing “leading digital platforms for Africa’s progress”. The new-look is “aligned to our evolution from a telecommunications company to a technology company underpinned by one simple and consistent yet striking brand”, said Nompilo Morafo, MTN Group Chief Sustainability, and Corporate Affairs Officer. Vodafone on the other hand started developing a new technologically backed value proposition that relies on the use of IoT, 5G, and edge capabilities. Its efforts to become more than just a telco revolves around the digitalization of its customer experience, services, and business operations. During its 2020 industry analyst summit in London, which was intended for its Vodafone Business segment, it announced that around 60% of its core IT has been moved to the cloud. Moreover, the company has adopted a digital-first approach within its business and overall culture, which spans across its departments, from marketing and customer management to platform and solution development.   The telecommunication industry is witnessing a shift in its landscape as telcos are beginning to build and offer tech-like products. While this new market offers many opportunities - such as automated systems, a competitive edge in data manipulation and additional revenue streams – the companies’ success depends on their capability to adopt the correct approach for the shift, offer customer-centric solutions, and build efficient partnerships. When done correctly, the transition of telco players into Techcos is a new source of growth that cannot be overlooked.   Sources: Telco to Techco – Telecoms Europe Events From Telco to Techco ( Vodafone idea: ‘From Telco to a Techco’: Enterprise business to catapult telecom industry to next level, Telecom News, ET Telecom ( From telecoms to tech: MTN changes logo to look the part | TechCabal A Technological Shift in Telecommunications  - Programming Insider Why telcos need to become 'Techcos' - TechCentral The Telecommunications Service Provider Journey - From Telco to Techco - Cloudera Blog Telco Vs Techcos – a Battlefield for the Future of ICT - IT News Africa - Up to date technology news, IT news, Digital news, Telecom news, Mobile news, Gadgets news, Analysis and Reports Vodafone Business: from telco to tech comms How has COVID-19 influenced the telecoms industry so far? -

How smartphones are contributing to climate change

With the world becoming increasingly virtual by the day and almost 84% of the world’s population using a smartphone, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the facts and figures regarding the detrimental effects of smartphones on nature and the environment. Smartphones are making a substantial contribution to the problem of climate change with significant figures being highlighted in various studies and research.  Extensive research has been conducted in recent years to identify and draw attention to the negative impact of smartphones on the environment, but the topic is still insufficiently appreciated and addressed, by users and manufacturers, respectively. While advocating for the environment and promoting recycling and sustainability on social media via our smartphones, we often neglect the impact on the environment imposed by the smartphone itself. From the extraction of raw materials to assembly, distribution, transport, use, and end-of-life treatment, smartphones contributed to the creation of a staggering 580 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2020.  The ICT sector — including personal computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets — as well as its digital infrastructures such as data centers and communication networks, is expected to contribute to the global carbon footprint by 14% in 2040, representing more than half of the contribution made by the transportation sector worldwide.  While the role of technology in promoting environmental awareness and fighting climate change is indeed significant, the business of smartphones is one that is very much focused on profit, with minimal attention paid to the environmental impact of their production and disposal.    Device Statistics  In the past five years, global smartphone usage has almost doubled. In 2016, the number of smartphone users amounted to just over 3.6 billion users, while by 2021 that figure had reached an estimated 6.3 billion users worldwide, with the number expected to reach over 7.5 billion by 2026.  While this demonstrates an expected increase at a decreasing rate compared to the past 5 years, that figure would constitute almost 90% of the world’s population, according to world population projections.    [caption id="attachment_7964" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Note(s): Worldwide, Africa, North America, Europe, China, Central and South America, MENA; 2018 to 2021 Further information regarding this statistic can be found on page 8. Source(s): Gartner; ID 755388 [/caption]   Impact Breakdown A smartphone contributes to global warming and climate change throughout the entirety of its life cycle, from production to disposal. The raw materials needed to produce a smartphone, including gold, cobalt, lithium, and other heavy metals, require energy-intensive mining, and their extraction often causes significant environmental pollution.  [caption id="attachment_7949" align="aligncenter" width="615"] Bruno Martin, OpenMind BVA[/caption] The mass production of smartphones in mega factories, of course, also greatly contributes to climate change with 85%-95% of a smartphone’s overall carbon footprint produced during the production process. The batteries, integrated circuits, speakers, and screens used to manufacture smartphones — along with every other single component that goes into their manufacture — are themselves mass-produced, creating carbon footprints, heat emissions, and environmental pollution of their own.  The environmental impact associated with smartphones, however, does not end with their hardware production and the smartphone’s physical components. The networking and data centers needed for the software development of the operating systems used in smartphones, such as IOS and Android among others, can also be energy-intensive, with significant carbon and heat emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, for instance, data centers consume approximately 200 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, or nearly 1% of global electricity demand, contributing to 0.3% of all global CO2 emissions  The actual usage of smartphones also produces an environmental impact. Research on the annual carbon emissions from smartphone usage provides an estimate of an average of 63 kilograms of CO2 emissions produced, from only one hour of smartphone usage per day, for a year, and up to 90 kilograms of CO2 emissions produced for 10 hours of usage per day, for a year. Although this demonstrates that the impact of the production process is much higher than that of the smartphone’s use, CO2 emissions from usage continue to increase as more people are becoming smartphone-dependent.  The practice of frequently upgrading our smartphones when new versions are released creates an enormous amount of physical e-waste. In 2019 that figure was estimated to weigh more than 50 million tonnes, constituting approximately 10% of global e-waste. Finally, the telecom sector on which our phones rely produces its own carbon footprint, heat emissions, and e-waste.    [caption id="attachment_7950" align="aligncenter" width="701"] Ericsson Mobility Report 2021[/caption] Smartphone Manufacturers Launching new smartphone models every 2-3 years is a profit mechanism used by market players who rely on brand loyal customers with a hunger for new features, better quality, and brand image. This strategy encourages the discarding of smartphones more quickly, a situation made worse by the lack of transparency on the part of most market players regarding the recyclability of disposed smartphones. Another strategy used to elicit more profit is the creation of components that are difficult or costly to replace, such as batteries or screens, essentially incentivizing consumers who suffer broken phones to simply replace the phone entirely.  Some efforts, however, have been made by various manufacturers to operate more efficiently. A case in point is that of Apple, who announced in 2018, that its global facilities - including retail stores, data centers, and other facilities in 43 countries - had completed a transition to 100% clean energy.  Not all market players have made similar commitments to transition to renewable energy for their operations and manufacturing, and the majority continue to lack transparency as to the sustainability of their production processes and the recyclability of their products. Indeed, the same players have made sustainability-minded investments in other areas, while refraining from doing the same with their smartphone production process. [caption id="attachment_7951" align="aligncenter" width="618"] Apple Datacenters in Denmark, PV Magazine,[/caption]   Does the problem end with smartphones? The path of digital transformation of communications, manufacturing, and banking, among others, of which we believe ourselves to be in dire need, does not come at no cost to the environment, labor market, and societal well-being  Many of the other technologies that are currently trending have been found to have a significant impact on the environment. Digital currencies are one such example, with Bitcoin and Ethereum, in particular, being so damaging to the environment that they threaten to reverse any gains achieved through the transition to electric vehicles and the reduction in fossil fuels use. Much of this impact resides in the energy and processing intensive mining of these digital currencies, and the proofs of work that underpin their production. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, for instance, Bitcoin already consumes more energy than the whole of Argentina, and the total carbon footprint left by Bitcoin currently exceeds the total reduction in emissions made by electric vehicles. Training models and deep machine learning for Artificial Intelligence systems are also energy and data processing intensive, with their own significant power consumption levels and, accordingly, their own emissions.  As we continue to transition to a more digitalized world, careful consideration will be needed to determine what trade-offs we will find acceptable, and exactly how we can collectively manage the costs and benefits of such a transition.     Mariam AbdEl-Aziz   References: James Mckinven,  

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