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How Blockchain Will Disturb The E-Commerce Industry In The Next Few Years

What is blockchain? And how will it disturb the e-commerce? Those are questions we should be asking ourselves. In this article, we will be answering these questions to help you understand, blockchain technology and how it will disturb the e-commerce industry in the next few years.

Jandre de Beer

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In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto invented blockchain to serve as the public transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. The creation of the blockchain for bitcoin made it the first digital currency, to resolve the double-spending problem without the need for a trusted authority or central server.

So, what is blockchain? a blockchain is an endless growing list of records called blocks, which is linked and secured using cryptography.

Each block naturally contains a cryptographic hash of the former block, a timestamp and transaction data.

As a design, blockchains are resistant to modification of the data and is an open distributed ledger which can record transactions between two parties proficiently, and in a verifiable and lasting way.

Blockchain permits digital information to be communicated between a decentralised, peer-to-peer (P2P) network creating a new type of internet.

Blockchain functions like a digital ledger or spreadsheet which can be accessed by everyone, but the former input cannot be edited without that edit appearing in the audit trail.

Having a high-level understanding of how blockchain works, will help you stay ahead of the competition.

Related: 5 Basics To Success When Starting An Ecommerce Business

There are a number of key features which make the network exciting for eCommerce brands like:

  1. Decentralised – Blockchain works over a P2P network. Data is not held in a single location, which makes it more reliable. Nobody owns or is in charge of the blockchain, which means its free of influence from governments or large corporations.
  2. Immutable – transactions are append-only, meaning once data is recorded it cannot be changed without that change is visible in the audit trail.
  3. Near real-time – stakeholders can work collaboratively in real-time over a sole, trusted ledger.

The challenges that the eCommerce industry face today are trust, frauds, slow transactions and other costs. Going forward blockchain will disturb the challenges and create a whole new revolution in the eCommerce industry in the following ways:

  1. Cheaper Transactions – blockchain allows the existence of “smart contracts” which would be software programs that will self-execute contract instructions, lowering the cost and complexity of transfers and transactions.
  2. Faster transactions – transactions, order details, commissions in the form of smart contracts can be used to save all documents, shipping, delivery and possible events which affect financial settlements. Thus, every individual or company involved in the supply chain can make vital data visible to others, which lowers disputes, delays, disorganisation and speeds up the transaction process.
  3. Transparency – blockchains store entire owner history, no matter where the product goes and how many times its bought, which eliminates the frauds and brings transparency to consumer and merchant.

In conclusion, blockchain has ushered a new revolution of digital currency and transaction system where intermediaries like brokers, banker’s lawyers might not be needed at all.

Read next: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

Having started his first business at the age of 22, and selling it at the age of 25, Jandre fell in love with marketing! Jandre is a sales and digital marketing consultant with an appetite for entrepreneurship, and is the Founder and Managing Director of V8 MEDIA: V8 MEDIA.

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Is The Future Of AI Around the Corner? Computing Power Suppliers Are Shifting Gears

Here, we look at the challenges faced by cloud-based computing, and some potential solutions.

Harald Merckel

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing everything from the information we see on our Facebook feeds, to improving diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

According to McKinsey, it has the potential to create an additional $13 trillion in global economic output by 2030. Governments and start-ups alike are scrambling to ensure they are in a position to enjoy the economic benefits that AI will bring.

However, despite the apparent potential, there’s one significant bottleneck — the supply of computational power required to develop and drive AI products and solutions.

At present, cloud-based providers of computing resources are striving to keep up with the pace of development in power hungry AI. Here, we look at the challenges faced by cloud-based computing, and some potential solutions.

Challenge 1 – Supply and Demand

AI relies on data and lots of it. As such, the computational demand of AI is growing — one report estimates that the amount of compute used by AI currently has a three and a half month doubling time.

As things stand, AI developers are dependent on computing capacity from the $247 billion cloud computing industry. This industry is dominated by four corporate IT firms – Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM, collectively known as the ‘Big Four’. These companies rely on their vast centralised data centres to keep the world’s cloud computing services running.

In an attempt to meet the growing demand for AI computing services, investment in data centres is also growing at a startling pace. Computing firms spent $27 billion in the first quarter of 2018, with most of that expenditure thought to be directed into developing data centres. Compare this with the $74 billion spent in 2017, and the pace of growth is evident.

The question is, how long can the computing firms continue to keep up with demand using the traditional datacenter model?

In an attempt to stem demand, the big IT firms are increasing their costs.

With AI services requiring massive computational power before they can go to market, the rising cost of computing risks stifling innovation, particularly for smaller developers.

Related: The Curious Case Of AI And Legal Liability

Challenge 2 – Environmental Sustainability

If the only way to meet demand is to build more data centres, then this means more electricity-hungry machines. It’s reported that 2% of all CO2 emissions globally emerge from the datacenter industry — more than the airline industry.

Just this month, the United States of America’s Department of Energy reported that data centres in their country accounted for around 2% of the overall energy consumption.

While owners are investigating green energy alternatives, the fact remains that more data centres will result in higher energy consumption.

google-one-of-the-big-four

Challenge 3 – A single point of failure

Amazon famously brought down a number of large websites last year when an employee accidentally took more servers offline than intended. That event sparked a domino effect that was felt globally.

It’s natural that single points of failure raise the risk of an incident having a more substantial impact. With cloud data provided by just four companies from a limited number of data centres, that risk is always present.

A Quantum of Solace?  

Chinese marketplace Alibaba is also in the business of cloud computing, albeit not yet one of the ‘Big Four’ However, its representatives have clearly stated that the company has market leader Amazon firmly in its sights.

Earlier this year, Alibaba launched its first cloud quantum computer, capable of processing 11 quantum bits (qubit). A typical computer chip is binary, meaning it can only process values of 0 or 1 at any given moment depending on its speed. A quantum computer is capable of handling both at the same time, meaning a single qubit can participate in many millions of processes.

Alibaba has pledged to continue development in this area, having already invested $15.5 billion at the end of last year. IBM is also firmly invested in quantum computing, having launched its own quantum computer last year. Quantum computers could ultimately do away with the need for centralised data centres.

From Cloud Computing to Distributed Computing

While some commentators have predicted a wait of five to ten years for quantum computing solutions to cope with demand, a few start-ups are working to meet the requirements of cloud computing on a shorter timeline. One start-up has devised a scalable solution, which it says will be up and running as early as 2019.

Tatau, which calls itself the “Uber of Computing,” has designed a platform which essentially creates a global supercomputer to harness the joint capacity of already existing GPU computing capacity.

By utilising a resource that already exists, the company claims it can offer cloud computing that is cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and more scalable than current solutions. Moreover, a decentralised model doesn’t have a single point of failure, reducing the risk of downtime or hacks.

Tatau’s decentralised network taps into the computing capacity that sits outside of data centres. The company has designed a blockchain-driven marketplace where owners of GPU hardware can sell under-utilised computing power to a buyer. By utilising latent capacity, this solution provides a way for owners of hardware to receive better returns on their investment, and provide access to reliable, cost-effective compute previously unavailable to AI developers.

Related: Can Computers Replace Human Accountants? We Doubt They Can

The Future for AI Development

Given the growing demand for AI services, the computing sector needs to find a way to meet the need for computing services. Given the challenges inherent in the current datacenter model, it seems likely that quantum or distributed computing could ultimately take off.

The question will be, are the current ‘Big Four’ market players ready to compete on a different playing field?

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How Sasfin Bank Is Beyond A Banking Platform – The Evolution Of B\\YOND

From opening a business bank account in one day to advanced business analytics at the touch of a button, B\\YOND is asking business owners what they need most from a banking platform — and delivering on it.

Sasfin

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Vital Stats

Imagine you pay millions each month in rebates. The thousands of transactions are batched and go out on the first of each month. What happens if a few are incorrect and the entire batch is rejected and needs to be recaptured?

For one business owner, the entire process meant that he always needed to be available at the beginning of the month and customers were often paid late, creating a reputational risk for his business and limiting his opportunity to grow his portfolio with existing clients.

It was a huge pain point that many entrepreneurs share, and one Sasfin’s online banking platform, B\\YOND was determined to fix. “We asked real business owners to tell us what the banking issues were that they either hated the most, or that affected their businesses the most,” says Rodger Dunn, Head of Transactional Banking at Sasfin.

“This is just one problem we’ve solved, and since joining our platform, that same entrepreneur can now work remotely, knowing that his rebates will be paid on time, even if a few transactions need to be fixed.”

The Evolution of B\\YOND

What do business owners need most? What are their pain points and what tools will help them make money, save money and be more efficient? How can we deliver these solutions in a simple-to-use, intuitive way?

These are the questions that Sasfin’s B\\YOND team sat down to answer when they began working on their new online banking platform. In addition to offering business owners a platform where they can transact online, they wanted to build a strategic business tool that solved real everyday problems for entrepreneurs.

“We launched in March this year with a platform that offered much more than the normal functionality of online banking,” says Rodger.

“Through B\\YOND, our customers are able to apply for a business bank account online; perform their own payroll management; create and send personalised quotes and invoices directly from the platform; manage revenue and expenses; and connect their Sasfin Bank transactional data with Xero, the fastest growing Cloud-based accounting software provider in the world.”

For B\\YOND users, this was just the beginning. “Customers already on the platform will find additional functionality being added regularly,” explains Rodger.

“We have a vision, but we are also listening to our customers. Within the core team are two business owners who bring key insights to the product, but we also have a closed group of businesses that regularly test new functionality.”

B\\YOND’s key competitive advantage is how the entire platform integrates traditionally disparate functionality into one portal. “Everybody offers an accounting package, transactional banking, a credit card and so on,” says Rodger. “However, B\\YOND’s platform integration and how we make everything work together is our advantage, because that’s how we save customers the most precious commodity: Time.

“Let’s use Xero as an example. Instead of manually populating payments, with Xero you get secure, direct daily feed integration from your Sasfin bank account into your accounting software.”

Related: Sasfin Is Gearing Your Company For Growth

Removing banking barriers

roger-dunn

“B\\YOND’s Cloud platform enables us to take any manual process and make it digital. The benefits of this are endless, but we started at the beginning of a banking journey and worked our way up from there,” says Rodger.

“If you want to open a business bank account, you generally need to meet with your banker or stand in a long queue at a branch. If there’s more than one shareholder or director in the business, multiple parties need to be at that meeting. Once the bank has laid out its value proposition and you agree to go ahead, you then have documentation to fill in, which everyone needs to sign.

“As a result, setting up a business banking account can take up to a few weeks with multiple in-person engagements. We saw an opportunity to change that by creating a seamless, online process. If you have everything you need, you can have a business bank account up and running on the same day that you begin your application.”

How has Sasfin managed to fundamentally change this time-consuming and paper-based process? “We’ve taken something that’s serial in nature and split it into parallel processes,” explains Rodger.

“Our objective is to remove as much of the friction and barriers of opening a business bank account as possible. We’re a technology-based business, but we’re also high-touch. Technology should be an enabler, it shouldn’t take the place of people or complicate processes. We understand that business owners don’t only want to deal with a platform. They want consultants who understand their business and needs.”

Thinking out the box

As an alternative bank, Sasfin has looked for ways to make business banking more efficient and supportive of entrepreneurial needs, while lowering the costs for clients.

One way this has been achieved is through a branch-less and ATM-less environment. Sasfin customers can draw money for one flat fee from any ATM across the country.

“You’re paying for usage, instead of an entire infrastructure you hardly ever use,” says Rodger.

B\\YOND plays a key role in this value proposition. “Instead of migrating businesses onto different platforms as they grow and evolve, we’ve kept things simple. More people and money generally means more controls. As businesses grow and more people need access to the banking platform, the system becomes complicated and more expensive. Those platforms were designed for large corporates, not growing entrepreneurial businesses.

“We have reduced the costs and complexities that corporate-focused platforms often come with. Our platform allows you to bank in a manner that supports your particular type of business, for example the platform caters for one or many users in a business with view access that aligns to the person’s role in the business.”

Another key functionality that B\\YOND has added is client classifications. Everything can be tagged and categorised. At the click of a button a full recon can be pulled, showing what was spent. All recons can be done directly from B\\YOND’s banking platform.

Related: Raising Capital In A Worsening Macro-Economic Environment

Looking to the future

There is a lot still to come. “We are building one single platform that you can run your entire financial management through.

“Our three-year goal is for B\\YOND to be a business analytics tool that entrepreneurs can access through their Internet banking platform,” explains Rodger.

Bank outside the box

The Sasfin Transactional Banking Business Account is designed for SMEs that want to focus on what they’re most passionate about — their business — while their banking platform sweats the small stuff, but also helps manage and grow their business.

  1. Do you spend unnecessary time on banking?
  2. Does your bank pay you market-leading interest rates?
  3. Does your bank give you easy cash management in real-time?
  4. Would you like to manage your payroll and invoicing from your bank account?
  5. Does your bank help you keep track of your cash flow, manage your admin, and provide tools to help run your business successfully?

Sign up today and have access to a whole new world of better banking for your business.

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At The Forefront Of Tech Adoption

Over 80% of South African companies adapt to new technology compared to two thirds in the UK and Europe.

TomTom Telematics

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South African companies are among the fastest adopters of new technology in the world, according to a survey by leading fleet management provider TomTom Telematics. The survey revealed that 66% of companies across the United Kingdom and Europe are early adopters, whereas 82% of South African companies are quick to respond to innovation.

“Technological advancement has accelerated at a rapid rate in recent years, with no signs of slowing down,” says Justin Manson, Sales Director for TomTom Telematics South Africa.

“Previously, companies could take a wait-and-see approach, following on their peers’ successes. Only then would they implement well-established technologies, but this approach is no longer an option as businesses are now expected to become more connected, mobile and adaptable to change.”

How tech impacts business

justin-manson

The study was conducted among 1 400 business managers in the UK and six European countries and duplicated in South Africa among 100 business managers. Nearly half (47%) of companies in the UK and Europe study expect artificial intelligence to become part of the normal working day in the next ten years, compared to 63% in South Africa. Also, 39% of respondents in the bigger study believe virtual reality will soon be in common use, while 65% of South Africans feel this way.

In addition, 28% predict connected cars will be commonplace during this period, and 25% anticipate ‘in-vehicle working’ will become prevalent due to the development of autonomous vehicles. In South Africa, 41% of respondents envision a rise in self-driving cars over the next ten years.

Already, several car makers are producing commercially available semi-autonomous vehicles that can steer, park and avoid collisions.

In Europe, 21% of respondents believe companies will adopt the use of microchip implants on their employees, while 45% in South Africa see this happening over the next ten years. Almost two thirds (62%) of businesses say remote working is — or will be — the norm for their employees, while 74% of South African leaders agreed with this sentiment. A discrepancy between SMEs and large corporates currently allowing employees to work remotely was also identified, with 52% of SMEs offering this, compared to 66% of large corporates.

Related: Getting More Than You Asked For With TomTom Telematics

Staying ahead

While businesses see technological innovation picking up momentum in the medium term, leaders fear that their companies will struggle to keep pace. More than half (55%) of businesses believe those who fail to embrace digitised processes and the Internet of Things (IoT) are at a higher risk of going out of business.

This varies significantly from country to country, with 81% of Spanish leaders and 79% of Polish managers feeling that they risk failure if they don’t adapt, while less than half (49%) of UK leaders agree. In South Africa, 70% of business managers believe this to be true.

“These trends highlight a possible gap between access to and investment in connected technology,” Justin says. “Every business is different and each one needs to conduct its own thorough research on the role that technology can play in future-proofing its operation, delivering greater efficiencies and creating more employee satisfaction.”

Competitive advantages in tech

  • 55% Businesses that believe those who fail to embrace digitised processes and the Internet of Things (IoT) are at a higher risk of going out of business.
  • 74% South African business leaders who believe remote working will be the norm for their employees.
  • 52% South African SMEs offering remote working opportunities, compared to 66% of corporates.

The lesson: With the right tech solutions, SMEs can implement a clear competitive edge.

TomTom Telematics is a Business Unit of TomTom dedicated to fleet management, vehicle telematics and connected car services. Its  Software-as-a-Service solutions are used by small to large businesses to improve vehicle performance, save fuel, support drivers and increase overall fleet efficiency. In addition, TomTom Telematics provides services for the insurance, rental and leasing industries, car importers and companies that address businesses as well as consumers.

Related: On Top Of Their Game

TomTom Telematics is one of the world’s leading telematics solution providers with more than 861 000 connected cars worldwide. The company services drivers in more than 60 countries, giving them the industry’s strongest local support network and widest range of sector-specific third party applications and integrations. Our customers benefit every day from the high standards of confidentiality, integrity and availability of our ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified service, re-audited in November 2017.

For further information, please visit telematics.tomtom.com

Follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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