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Technologies in business: Some work, some don’t (yet)

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Technologies in business: Some work, some don’t (yet)

Katja Forbes

A lot of new strategies and tools are constantly hitting the market — some of them eagerly picked up, whilst others fizzle out for a number of reasons, writes user experience specialist Katja Forbes.

Open banking

Firstly, open banking has already been spoken about in various forums. But what exactly is it and what does it mean for end users?

One of the first organisations to jump into the deep end was ING in September last year. The banking organisation describes open banking as a “multi-bank platform that helps international customers to manage multiple bank accounts. It offers payments, cash management and treasury services in one place”.

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Realistically, most of us nowadays have multiple banking accounts across different banks that we access through different online platforms. This includes savings accounts, credit cards and also loan accounts.

Often, these are not via the same organisation, as we finance wherever interest rates are lower.

We will also refinance, as other lenders change their conditions and fees, so we look at moving our loan elsewhere. With so many cards linked to multiple accounts, it can get very confusing and tedious when trying to remember various passwords to access our various accounts.

Also, it can be frustrating trying to remember what accounts we even have and to acknowledge how they are performing.

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Open banking aims to remove all that confusion and time wasted opening various individual banking sites and apps to locate each separate account.

What open banking does is provide customers with just one interface, from which the financial organisations will have the ability to create just one platform of their own that incorporates all your individual accounts — from various banks and lenders — all in the same place.

All of an individual’s accounts can be accessed from the single platform. Not only can they view the balance on each account, they can also initiate payment from this platform. And it requires no investments or long-term contracts for licences or hardware.

Finally, since the app exists in the cloud, there are no set-up costs. ING states it is working on additional functionalities for this app (which they have named Cobase).

Benefits to customers are, in fact, twofold. Firstly, open banking allows customers to make more informed choices about finance products without forcing them to have multiple access methods.

In addition, competition among the lenders will offer greater opportunities to customers. Lenders will compete for solutions, as well as promoting innovation and allowing new and better products, services and experiences to be developed.

Financial organisations won’t just be competing on the products: they’ll be competing for the experience they can provide when you access their products and products from other organisations through their platform.

If they win on the experience, they might just convert you to all their products at a time in the future as well.

All said and done, it’s really the customer who wins here, as open banking enables them to do new things like pay their credit cards with voice interaction using their Alexa or Google Home, and importantly, access all their financial products in one place, and with the experience of their choice.

Facial recognition

Another emerging technology, facial recognition, is already being used to tag people in Facebook photos, and is now set to be used in entirely different ways.

However, unlike open banking, this technology is encountering a great many obstacles, such as privacy issues on its usability debate.

Already, face recognition technology is being used here in Australia. For example, when someone walks past digital screens in specific locations, their face is scanned and they are automatically shown ads that appeal to their age and gender.

In airports in China, your flight can be identified completely through facial recognition. You aren’t required to input any data upon arrival.

Microsoft president Brad Smith mentioned that this technology has the power of actually turning the world into a surveillance state.

We know that facial recognition technology has been recently successful in China, as they brag how they could locate one “police-wanted” man in a crowd of 60,000 concert-goers with its use.

Naturally, we want to be safe, but why then do we get the feeling that Big Brother is watching?

The latest research and scenarios from London are showing disappointingly inaccurate results. New figures from The Metropolitan Police in London show that the controversial technology has misidentified members of the public as potential criminals in 96 per cent of scans so far in London.

Despite this, the police are still saying facial recognition technology could help it hunt down wanted offenders and reduce violence, but critics have accused it of wasting public money and violating human rights.

For example, recently a man was fined simply for covering his face walking down a street in East London. Why was this a problem? Because he had spotted a camera that was installed, trying to identify criminals using facial recognition technology. This man did not wish to be filmed, and subsequently got caught and fined for it.

There is no doubt it is heading to our shores in a big way, and aside from showing us adverts that would appeal to us, it would be very cool if we could find additional ways to make use of it that would actually benefit both the consumer and the provider.

But there are two sides to this coin, and I am deeply concerned of what is on the other side.

Robotics

Last but not least, robot workers are another emerging technology. Apparently, robot workers are already replacing human workers at an amazing rate.

According to Gizmodo, each additional robot in the US economy reduces employment by 5.6 workers, and every robot that is added to the workforce per 1,000 human workers causes wages to drop by as much as 0.25 to 0.5 of a percentage point.

Whilst having a transformative effect on the labour market, it also appears as if our fears are already coming true.

I could reference a great many more research results in the previous few years, but the results are all much the same. Robot workers are reducing the need for human skills across a great many industries.

In fact, according to a seminal Oxford University study, the jobs that will be the first to go are ones with routine, repetitive and rules-based tasks that require little creative or social intelligence. Human error becomes impossible.

Clearly, these areas will be the ones employers would prefer to have robot workers carrying out.

Areas that are less likely to be in fear of the robot worker are those that involve social or creative tasks. This means the skills that workers are best to update are communication and negotiation skills, how to manage others and giving your creativity a chance to blossom.

For workers whose career looks in danger of being occupied by a robot, how about pivoting or retraining. In other words, pivot into an area of your industry that’s less likely to be consumed by robots, or retrain and move into another industry altogether.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass’ quip sums it up best: “The factory of the future will have only two employees: a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Katja Forbes is the managing director, Australia and New Zealand, of Designit and an advisory board member on India’s DesignUp Conference.

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Technologies in business: Some work, some don’t (yet)
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