Banks think it could be the future of financial transactions, while diamond miners hope it will help end the trade in conflict diamonds.
And this week the UK’s chief scientific adviser encouraged the British government to adopt the technology.
But what exactly is it and why is it causing such a stir? Technology of Business (tries) to explain.
Does it have anything to do with bicycles?
No. Blockchain is a method of recording data – a digital ledger of transactions, agreements, contracts – anything that needs to be independently recorded and verified as having happened.
The big difference is that this ledger isn’t stored in one place, it’s distributed across several, hundreds or even thousands of computers around the world.
But how does it work exactly?
Digital records are lumped together into “blocks” then bound together cryptographically and chronologically into a “chain” using complex mathematical algorithms.
This encryption process, known as “hashing” is carried out by lots of different computers. If they all agree on the answer, each block receives a unique digital signature.
“You don’t store details of the transaction, just the fact that it happened and the hash of the transaction,” explains Adrian Nish, head of threat intelligence at BAE Systems.
Once updated, the ledger cannot be altered or tampered with, only added to, and it is updated for everyone in the network at the same time.
What’s so clever about that?
Well, the distributed nature of a blockchain database means that it’s harder for hackers to attack it – they would have to get access to every copy of the database simultaneously to be successful.
It also keeps data secure and private because the hash cannot be converted back into the original data – it’s a one-way process.
So if the original document or transaction were subsequently altered, it would produce a different digital signature, alerting the network to the mismatch.
In theory then, the blockchain method makes fraud and error less likely and easier to spot.
Is this a new thing?
The idea has been around for a couple of decades, but came to prominence in 2008 with the invention of Bitcoin, the digital currency.
Bitcoins are created by computers solving complex mathematical puzzles and this requires lots of computing power and electricity. Blockchain is the technology underpinning it.
But there isn’t just one program – lots of companies, from Ethereum to Microsoft, are developing their own blockchain services. Some are open to all (“unpermissioned”, in the jargon), others restrict access to a select group (“permissioned”).
Why are the banks so excited?
“Banks do very similar things to each other, even though they compete,” says Simon Taylor, vice-president of blockchain research and development at Barclays.
“They basically keep our money safe and a big computer keeps track of who has what. But getting these computers to talk to each other is remarkably complex and expensive – the tech is getting a little old,” he says.
If banks started sharing data using a tailor-made version of blockchain it could remove the need for middlemen, a lot of manual processing, and speed up transactions, says Mr Taylor, thereby reducing costs.
That was the key message emerging last week from FinTech City London, a series of events for financial services technology professionals organised by the CEO Agenda and Icon Corporate Finance.
Fintech, as financial services technology is modishly called, is enabling nimbler, hi-tech companies to re-engineer most financial activities, from payments processing to personal loan applications, and cut out the middleman.
It’s what Clayton Christensen, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, calls “disruptive innovation“.
While the things we do with money – save, borrow, invest, spend – have not changed much over the centuries, the way we interact with financial institutions is “drastically changing”, said Alex Scandurra, director of innovation strategy and business development at Barclays.
‘The micro multinational’
And that’s largely to do with mobile, open-source databases and cloud computing. About three-quarters of the UK population owns a smartphone, and there are more than five billion mobile phones globally.
“As a result of the proliferation of technology, digital, and now mobile with it, the barriers to entry have significantly decreased,” said Mr Scandurra. “Now we’re seeing that teams of 10 to 15 people can actually take on the large incumbents all around the world.”
Whereas big financial institutions have to cater for a mass market and try to please everybody, small fintech companies can focus on niche markets, globally spread. They can form what futurist and writer Alvin Toffler called “the micro multinational”.
One such company is Funding Circle, the peer-to-peer (P2P) lending service launched in 2010, which aims to provide businesses with access to loan funding while providing investors with a decent return on their money. Its 65,000-plus investors have lent over £208m to UK businesses so far.
In March 2013, the UK government began lending £20m to British businesses through Funding Circle as part of its Business Finance Partnership scheme.
Co-founder and chief executive Samir Desai said that while his company had certainly benefited from the 2008-13 banking crisis and the consequent collapse of trust in High Street banks, it is new open-source technologies and databases that have enabled P2P lending companies to grow.
“Every loan that goes through Funding Circle is funded on average by 700 different people,” he said “Those loans can then be bought and sold by other investors through a secondary market. So we have as many mini-loans going through our system as any bank, and thousands of secondary market transactions going through each day.
“We couldn’t have done that without these new open-source technologies.”
New credit scoring system?
Open-source databases that anyone can access and adapt, such as Hadoop and Cassandra, can process and structure vast amounts of data from a wide and growing range of sources, including social media, helping P2P lenders and other financial companies assess creditworthiness to much higher degrees of accuracy than before.
“Banks haven’t started to embrace these new types of technology,” said Mr Desai. “So we can lend to businesses they wouldn’t even consider.”
So now even your Twitter comments could affect whether or not you’re granted a loan, and companies like Facebook could end up displacing old-fashioned credit reference agencies.
Giles Andrews, chief executive and co-founder of Zopa, a more established P2P lender founded in 2005 that has lent more than £455m to individuals and sole traders, agrees that customer data – its efficient collection and analysis – is key to success these days.
“The business is not a bank and I’m not a banker,” he added. “We’re more of a data company.”
This is why Zopa has just hired its first ever chief data scientist, he said, who comes not from a bank, but from Amazon, the online retailer.
Newer fintech companies are not encumbered by old technology, the so-called legacy systems that traditional banks struggle to integrate with newer software and hardware.
The Lloyds Banking Group IT glitch, which affected debit card and cash machine transactions at the weekend, is the latest in a long line of big bank technology problems.
“It’s an opportunity for the new challengers who don’t have that legacy issue,” said Sue Langley, chief executive of UK Trade & Investment’s Financial Services Organisation, “because it’s much easier with a blank sheet of paper to…. come up with something new.”
“The banks have an increasing need for technology,” said Mark Boleat, chair of the City of London’s policy and resources committee. “Some of that comes from their huge IT departments, but an awful lot of it is coming from new and start-up businesses.”
Alex McCracken, director of ventures groups at Silicon Valley Bank’s UK arm, believes we will see a polarisation in financial services, with global all-you-can-eat banks serving multinationals at one end, and small, technology-driven niche players serving local needs at the other.
“Corporates and small businesses are going to be able to pick and choose their niche service providers,” he said.
The mouse that roared
Mobile payment companies like Square, simpler direct debit providers like GoCardless, and foreign currency specialists like The Currency Cloud, all are offering financial services at lower cost and greater convenience through clever use of the latest technologies.
Are the big banks running scared?
Last week, US banking giant Wells Fargo banned some of its staff from investing in for-profit P2P lending companies, such as Lending Club and Prosper, admitting that they were competitors.
That is the wrong approach, argues Barclays’ Alex Scandurra. His bank is collaborating more with tech entrepreneurs and start-ups, as well as offering non-banking products such as Cloud It, an online data storage service.
He calls the approach “amplification through collaboration”.
Labour leader Ed Miliband may want to increase competition by forcing big UK banks to offload High Street branches, but to many observers, this is a red herring.
The interconnectivity of social media means it is a perfect hunting ground for illegal activity, and increasingly people are realising that their “friend” many not actually be their friend.
Cybercrime on social networks can be broken down into three categories:
- the traditional broad-sweep scams, trying to lure you to click on something or visit pages that will push malware on to your computer
- searching for careless public exposure of personal data
- using social media as a platform to connect, exchange ideas and trade stolen information
Malware, scams and ransomware
The first category is the most widespread.
“The problem with social media is that people have an inherent trust,” explains Mark James, security specialist with IT security firm ESET. “And that is what is being tapped into by those cybercriminals.”
“People still believe that you have to click on something and download a file to be infected,” he says.
“This really isn’t the case anymore. There are things like drive-by-downloads, infected adverts and things like that. It’s very easy to be compromised on your machines.”
In many cases the initial malware is just a gateway into the system. It doesn’t do any real harm, yet. But once a back door is established to the infected computer, that access may then be put up for sale.
A package of data offering, of access to thousands of infected computers, will be snapped up by another criminal for use in a variety of ways.
With access to the computers received, criminals may then install software which, say, hijacks the victim’s online banking, or reads usernames and passwords.
One of the most profitable scams is installing ransomware, malicious software that encrypts the data on a victim’s computer and then asks for payment before restoring the system to its original state.
Social media is also an ideal hunting ground for anyone who has a clear target to attack, be it an individual or a company.
If you want to see who works in which company and in which position, or who they are friends with professionally and privately, this information can often be easily picked up on social media.
Any attack on a specific individual will be much easier if the target has made a lot of private information publicly available on their profiles.
If the target is a corporation, it is easy to single out an individual or a group of employees, and then target their machines in a focused attack. And once one machine in a network is affected, getting access to the entire structure is not difficult.
“There’s such a big crossover between your personal social media accounts and the impact you can cause within a corporate environment,” warns Michael Sentonas, vice president of technology strategy at cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike.
“Most organisations allow their users to connect to Facebook, to Instagram, to Twitter and other platforms and that’s where an attack – even if it was targeted at a home user – can have a significant impact on the workplace.”
Putting up defences
“Our only effective protection is a multilayered approach,” Mr James of ESET explains. “There’s no single protection anymore, there’s no magic bullet or single piece of software that’s going to protect us.”
While security software is important, it’s only a first step. It is a cat and mouse game where the bad guys produce the malware and the good guys try to produce the means to stop it.
The website design will be crucial in endeavoring to ensure as many individuals as possible not only go to the web site but opt to acquire something. Business people who want to broaden their business just as much as is possible and also get in touch with as many potential buyers as is possible will desire to make use of the capacity to persuade possible buyers from the landing page on their website to ensure they will purchase something. This could be completed by taking advantage of a couple of tactics whenever they are making the landing page for their particular web-site.
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It is true that formerly there was an occasion when only a really small part of the community might claim that they worked via all the convenience and comfort connected with home. Normally, these fortunate few actually were freelancers, or simply independent agents of various insurance companies with an office from home, or perhaps a counselor or maybe cello trainer that labored from their own home. Nevertheless nowadays, Look What I Found! As the particular direct consequence of the net, which hooks up almost all homes and businesses straight into one massive criss-crossing web, lots of people are now working from home worldwide. Some spend a lot of their time travelling, which is actually a viable possibility for anyone that have a notebook and a yen to travel away within the planet to see just what they might see. Individuals with movement issues, young kids, or maybe that are looking after those that have health conditions all are in a position to make a full or part-time living from home. You will find information offered Over At This Website.
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Find Out Just How One Particular Business Is Endeavoring To Develop Calgary As Well As How You Are Able To Help
The area of Calgary has a number of buildings that have not been filled or perhaps refreshed in a good amount of time, pulling away from the overall quality of the location. One firm, nonetheless, is actually working away at making sure the area gets the refreshed look it requires simply by spending money on structures such as these, carrying out a range of enhancements, then leasing them to brand-new organizations to help enhance the area.
Someone who would like to invest in the area may accomplish that by investing with a firm that is concentrating on enhancing the area. They might want to take the time to learn much more about the firm, how it invests the funds it receives, and just how the individual could gain a lot over time with their investments. By simply investing in a business like this, they are not simply investing in properties. They’re in fact investing in the town in general and also in the enhancements that may be made in order to make the location better. It’s not only about improving the look of the town, but about appealing to brand new companies as well as making certain every person who visits is likely to adore the city.
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Learn Just How A Single Firm Is Endeavoring To Develop Calgary As Well As Precisely How You Are Able To Help
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Making Communication Simpler Using a PBX System The PBX system has changed the way in which modern companies carry out their functions. To foster customer service, modern companies should adopt the PBX system. To improve customer loyalty, customer service has to be improved. The PBX system will go a long way in making companies more flexible. The PBX system facilitates video conferencing in the particular company. One of the best ways to integrate staff is different locations is by adopting video conferencing. To communicate with employees in the past, traveling was a necessity. The adopting of video conferencing has made it easier for consultation to happen in a company. For productivity to be improved, consultation is very essential. For interviews to be carried out in an easier method, video conferencing is necessary. Traveling for a long distance to conduct an interview will be a thing of the past. The PBX Company has made it easier for a company to entice potential clients. Negotiations with potential clients can happen for a long period of time considering that the PBX system is cheap. After adopting the PBX system, companies will find making presentations to clients much easier. The best way for employees to be given information around the clock is by adopting the PBX system. Even when an employee is at home, it will still be possible to receive valuable information touching on their place of work.
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Once the PBX system has been adopted, the number of participants is going to increase tremendously. To participate in a discussion, an employee will not have to travel for long distances. The training of new employees will become much easier when the PBX system is adopted. After adopting the system, experts can be hired to train the employees of the company. The cost of hiring such experts will be much cheaper since they do not have to travel to the premises of the company.
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To improve the way in which a company sells their products, the PBX system should be adopted. Once a good means to communication is in existence, reaching out to customers will become much simpler. Once the PBX system is introduced in a company, closing business with clients can happen in a short period of time. A number of companies today have satellite offices. The satellite offices do not have to be found in one country. Once the PBX system has been introduced, companies will have an easy time communicating with the affiliates. In the past, phone calls were used to communicate with the satellite offices. Email was widely used by mother companies to reach the satellite offices. It is critical for companies to embrace face to face communication when dealing with their branches. By failing to use face to face communication, a number of misunderstandings are likely to arise in the operations of the company.
What to Consider When Choosing a Business Phone System.
Business telephone systems often range anywhere from your smaller end-of-the scale for the higher. No matter whether the machine eventually ends up a little or a large investment, getting good-quality phone equipment must rank as a number one concern. The largest discussion for it has regarding how poor-quality gear places the business enterprise at an increased risk for the disturbance at vital moments of function. Consequently, your financial ability should not be a leading concern, but instead the gear quality and at its efficiency in achieving your company requirements.
The following should be the main points to consider when searching for a business phone system.
Achieving the current and future company requirements and needs must be linked to your definitive goal when searching for a telephone system. To some extensions and wrinkles, it is important to have an awareness when it comes to your business needs. This would entail research of recent and anticipated consumer advancement, in addition to personnel. The people using the systems fully accommodating all are crucial.
In the case phone systems also tiny, you risk by having to turn them away, losing consumers. On the converse, a telephone system that is too much for the business will only be a waste of money. Whatever the case, your present, and estimated enterprise expansion measurement must affect telephone system’s sort you decide on.
First, you need to have a budget for the purchase. When you are picking out a telephone system, it’s crucial that you consider carefully your budget. Essentially, whenever you know the actual amount you can use, this isn’t something you need to review. Nevertheless, should you be currently finding that many of the phones techniques are lacking you might want to contemplate for before you have a little more to place towards the investment, waiting.
One of many main reasons for this has regarding the way in which poor-quality equipment may result in nothing more than problems ultimately. Also, comparing charges is not unimportant also. By doing this, you’re more conscious of costs for different types of packages and attributes.
You also need to know about the features your company needs. Mostly, many company workers make use of few features included in a system. In thought, record characteristics important to the company avoids this kind of scenario. Nonetheless, there are moments when you cannot avoid paying for a feature that will be redundant at your company.
Nevertheless, trying to avoid as much as feasible is among the methods that are greatest to avoid needless expenses. Fundamentally, the worth dropped at your organization through the characteristics must decide if they are worth spending money on.
Always consider selecting a phone system in accordance with your company’s needs. Just like the features, there’s no cause to fund over you’ll need with a phone system. Therefore, you ought to choose a business phone system that matches the wants of your business.
Tips On Selecting A Phone Plan For Your Business
A mobile is crucial to business and it has been ranked as one of the top business tools for any business because they play a major role in the communications infrastructure of any business despite the industry that is in and it is known that a missed text, a missed call or the inability to access a site can cost a company millions. Many cellular providers will try to impress the market with funny and eye-catching advertisements and there are a lot of new handsets that have new features that the users cannot live without and the decision to equip the workforce and which of the services providers can partner with the business to make a huge difference on the bottom line.
The first decision in getting a cell phone plan for the firm is by determining if the company is right to go for business and the business owner needs to look at the business and decide how the cell phones are going to be used to address the communication needs of the firm and what the primary business drivers for the communication needs are. Cell phones are crucial when mobility is a major issue but there are some benefits for companies such as law firms that have people that spend a lot of time in the office on the phone with customers and for such people a cellphone would not be of much help.
The owner owner needs to research the company calling habits by obtaining some copies of past phone bills to get an exact picture of the company’s calling patterns and assess some things such as if the business calls are local or are there some calls that have been made across the country and if they would need to have free or cheap international calls that have need to be added to the plan. The business owner has to determine if data and texting would be vital to the organization and once the previous questions have been answered they can start to see what type of cell phone plan will be right for the company.
It is a known fact that the business owner needs to outfit the key people because it is unlikely that members of the company will need a cell phone company for their day-to-day work and limiting the number of phones that the firm can assign to key personnel can save the business money on the plan that they eventually select. If a business owner has mapped out the group’s communication needs then that should direct who is going to be issued a phone and normally senior management must have phones so that they can reach each other in emergencies or crisis.
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Why Business Phone Services and Systems are Beneficial
One who lives in the modern world of today might know that it is indeed very different from the world that used to be in the past. For example, the invention of modern technology has made it possible for so many things to be possible, so much convenience to be enjoyed by many people. One good example of how modern technology has made business better and more efficient, then, is business phone services and systems, which have definitely gained wonderful popularity in the world of today. One will be happy to know, then, that when he or she finds business phone services and systems to use in his or her company, a lot of advantages can be enjoyed.
Getting business phones and service systems is definitely beneficial to you and your company in so many different and wonderful ways, one of which is the fact that when you do so, you can be sure that the communications in your company can improve wonderfully. Many times, because communications are faulty and not as efficient as they should be, company executives focus a lot of their time and energy not on business, but on the communications themselves. The great news is that because of modern phone services and systems, people can forget about these problems and enjoy smooth communications and the chance to improve their business dealings marvelously.
Another thing that people can enjoy through business phone services and systems is the benefit of being able to save a great deal of money altogether. One who knows about travel expenses also knows that these are not at all cheap, and when he or she has to travel often for business, the company can lose a lot of money altogether. One will be pleased to know, then, that these expensive costs can be eliminated when he or she finds a good business phone service and system, as through it, travel can be kept to a minimum without diminishing communications.
Using a modern business phone system and service is also wonderfully beneficial to you because when you do so, you can be sure that you don’t need to spend a great deal of time and energy learning how to use it. This is true because today, the best gadgets and technology are created to be convenient to use and easy to learn, meaning that even if you are a beginner, you still don’t need to spend a lot of time learning to use these things.
Through business phone service and systems, then, one will no doubt be able to enjoy a lot of wonderful and exciting benefits altogether.
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Features of a Good Telephone Organization.
While searching for a telephone service provider, it is essential to realize that all the organizations are different and hence their services vary. All these companies offer their services differently as a way of ensuring that they are competitive. Therefore, ensure that you are keen on and not in a hurry as you search for a good company.
Due to the fact that there are many service providers, you are guaranteed of finding one that you will be comfortable with. That means that you should select a professional that is sufficiently knowledgeable in his work and hence advice you appropriately. Asking for suggestions from people that you trust is the best way of getting information because you are sure that it is genuine.
Also, ensure that you select an organization that offers excellent customer service. A firm that provides superior quality customer service is the best option for you. That demonstrates that your professional should pick all your calls and easily reachable. Also, ensure that you select an organization that offers maintenance services to its customers. One way of testing the level of customer service of your potential firms is through calling them or sending an email. Also, it is best to go through the websites and determine if they appear professional as that will establish the kind of service that you will receive.
Additionally, make certain that you hire a firm that provides various types of service so that you can have a variety to select from. Moreover, it is best to select an organization that is extensively experienced. On the other hand, an organization that is less experienced might lack the important tools for the job.
In addition, you should look for a company that is consistent. That means that you should read online reviews of the companies that you are interested in. There are some reviews that are found on the specific websites while others are found in independent sites. Therefore, if you realize that there are many negative responses then it means that you will also be disappointed. Ensure that you select an organization that has a good reputation for offering high quality services on time.
You can make arrangements to visit the different organizations that you are interested in. Therefore, it will be simpler if you write down the kind of questions that you would like to ask the professionals so that you cannot forget. The other important factor is the cost of the service that you will receive. Thus, you should consider all factors while looking for a telephone service provider.
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Acquiring A Simple Small Business Phone Service in Florida
An integral aspect of a small company is a small company telephone service. And with this type of service, small-scale business companies will undoubtedly be effective in interacting with business affiliates as well as other customers and may also do different enterprise deals without actually leaving the office. Many small scale business telephone services and systems are offered in packages. They’re sold together with a transmitter along with a few handsets and other gear relative to the package.
Lots of people wish to make use of a wireless telephone because it allow them make use of the receiver everywhere they are for as long it is within the range of the base phone and enables link with intercoms.
The type of small business telephone service that’s utilized in business is significantly much like that of the telephone system in the home. What is needed is a base station that works as the major phone-line, a caller ID and an answering machine. It is your choice as to whether you will connect additional telephones or handsets.
Some service companies add up to two extra phones or devices which might be included in their packaged service. But needless to say, this sort of system is expandable as you might have added phones to your system depending on your organization communication needs.
A lot of people today say that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the best for their businesses especially for the small companies. VoIP is definitely an effective small business phone service, based on the way you look at it. Utilizing a phone that’s connected to the internet may allow you to make calls everywhere on the planet without getting charged and having to keep in touch with an operator.
With this particular kind of company phone program, setup of the procedure is simple. Simply make an application for a typical VoIP account and an Internet connection then purchase a router, and that is all there is to it. Imagine using the internet to call other contacts for free. That is what is called effectiveness.
It is advisable always to ask competent employees on how to install the service package should you not know how to or can’t understand the supplied guide. Choosing the small business telephone service that is right is extremely crucial therefore be sure you buy the correct service that will match your requirements. A fruitful small business telephone service will surely help you overcome communication issues.
Different phone service providers are offering some small-scale business telephone services with added features. Clearly, small scale businesses may truly make money from this sort of service. It can be an invaluable requirement for most firms, and with its lower cost, getting a small business phone service for the enterprise is not that hard to obtain. Maybe having a small business telephone service is just what you may be lacking.