Posted On:April 2017 - AppFerret


Amazon opens up Alexa’s microphone and voice processing technology to hardware makers

2017-04-14 - By 

Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa might show up in a lot of new devices soon.

That’s because the online retail giant has decided to open up what amounts to Alexa’s ears, her 7-Mic Voice Processing Technology, to third party hardware makers who want to build the digital brain into their devices. The new development kit also includes access to Amazon’s proprietary software for wake word recognition, beamforming, noise reduction, and echo cancellation as well as reference client software for local device control and communication with the Alexa Voice Service.

The move will make it easier and less expensive for hardware makers to build Alexa into their products.

“Since the introduction of Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, device makers have been asking us to provide the technology and tools to enable a far-field Alexa experience for their products,” said Priya Abani, director of Amazon Alexa said in a statement. “With this new reference solution, developers can design products with the same unique 7-mic circular array, beamforming technology, and voice processing software that have made Amazon Echo so popular with customers. It’s never been easier for device makers to integrate Alexa and offer their customers world-class voice experiences.”

Amazon said the new development kit will be invitation only. Device makers can sign up here for an invite and to learn more about the technology.

A similar decision in 2015 to give developers the opportunity to build new capabilities for Alexa through the Alexa Skills Kit helped push Amazon into the early lead in the competitive voice assistant market. Developers who want to add to Alexa’s abilities can write code that works with Alexa in the cloud, letting the smart assistant do the heavy lifting of understanding and deciphering spoken commands.

Alexa reached a milestone of 10,000 skills back in February, and it has surely added many more since. That’s up from 7,000 in January; from 5,400 in December; from 3,000 in September; and from 1,000 in June. That’s a 10X increase since June.

Amazon is battling with Microsoft, Apple, Google, and soon Samsung, in the voice assistant market. Apple and Google opened up their digital assistant platforms to third party developers last year.

Original article here.


Healthcare Internet of Things: 18 trends to watch

2017-04-10 - By 

The transformation of the healthcare industry has begun. While it will take many years, the shake-up in patient, provider and payer processes and analytics systems will leave the industry profoundly different.

On the horizon is a much more cost-efficient healthcare industry that offers truly personalized healthcare. Providers and patients will be able to leverage the ever-increasing medical knowledgebase and combine that with patient-specific historical and real-time data, including genetics, lifestyle behavior and environmental data.

The adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) networks, the data collected and the analytics of that data are accelerating the transformation of the healthcare industry.

Facts to consider

Over the next few years, patient monitoring devices will improve, and providers will increasingly implement IoT and big data analytics solutions. As a result, the global IoT healthcare market will grow at a significant rate.

Trends to watch

The following are some trends I am watching in 2016. Many are interrelated, and some are longer term than others. But all will be important to watch over the next 12 months.

  1. Consumer-driven healthcare. Consumers are taking more responsibility for their own heath. As they do, they will demand better access to their data and improved health technology solutions that allow them to manage their own healthcare.
  2. Digital healthcare transformation. Data from IoT devices, including hospital room sensors, lab equipment, employee wearables and patient monitoring devices will enable the industry to accelerate the transformation to digital.  This transformation will cut healthcare costs and improve patient experiences and outcomes. Providers will increasingly look to analytics to provide predictive and prescriptive capabilities, dramatically improving the ability of healthcare providers to help patients. Payers will leverage that data to control costs and optimize patient healthcare outcomes.
  3. Key solution areas. Look for improvements in IoT solutions related to remote patient monitoring services, mobile health technologies, telemedicine, medication management, clinical operations, employee workflow management and inpatient monitoring.
  4. Extracting insights from all the data. The amount of healthcare-related data available within the industry is growing exponentially. The IoT will result in an increased flow of data for patient records, population health data and other databases, bringing a new complexity to provider and physician operations. Too much data can overload those providing care and distract them from their mission of treating patients. Providers will seek help from professional IoT services firms to help them develop processes and IoT platforms that can extract insights from many data sources.
  5. Remote patient monitoring.  Expect new remote patient monitoring devices, wearable clothing and smartphone apps that analyze the data collected. We are at the beginning of a new era of remote patient monitoring that will automatically feed patient records with real-time data, perform analysis and send coaching notifications to both providers and patients. This will make healthcare easier, convenient, 24/7, web-enabled and personalized.
  6. Providers begin shift toward remote healthcare. As consumers adopt remote monitoring devices, providers will restructure in order to provide remote medical care services and solutions.  New processes, roles, and skills will be required.  Larger providers will offer healthcare cognitive diagnostic and coaching mobile apps for patients to use remotely.
  7. Creating baseline and benchmark databases. IoT emerges as a key data capture point to establish a common baseline of data for care teams to utilize when comparing treatment options.  Teams of providers will leverage historical data and analytics to treat patients who have similar symptoms or diagnoses as those in the baseline data.
  8. Patient centered analytics. Expect more focus on using advanced analytics, visualizations and decision support tools (e.g., Watson) to improve diagnostic accuracy. Both provider and patient versions of these tools should emerge. Treatments will become more precise, effective and personalized.
  9. Cognitive coaching apps. Look for providers to begin releasing mobile apps that patients can use for healthcare and wellness coaching. Patients will increasingly demand these cognitive era apps, which will leverage data collected by wearables and information found in electronic health records. These apps will provide patients with personalized strategies to combat illness and behaviors in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage their own health.
  10. Government regulations. Governments will lay out guidelines for how medical apps (those apps that make medical recommendations and affect treatments of various diseases) will be regulated.
  11. Better component technology. Innovation in IoT solution and network components (e.g., smaller sensors, faster CPUs at lower cost) and wearable medical devices will bring cheaper, more advanced medical devices that are much more accurate and can transmit many new health measurements to electronic health records.
  12. Device interoperability and data integration. Analytics adoption in healthcare is closely tied to the ease with which disparate structured and unstructured data sources can be integrated and leveraged for data-driven decision making. As the number of medical-related IoT connected devices grows, the key challenge will be to ensure that data from all these devices can be read into big data platforms and then easily integrated into analytics solutions.
  13. Security and privacy issues. IoT and wearable sensors are increasingly collecting patient specific data. The healthcare industry, vendors and governments need to figure out how to ensure all this private and personal data is secured appropriately. This is a significant challenge and one that will require collaboration from all involved parties.
  14. Sharing of patient data. While security and privacy of patient healthcare records are critical, the fact is patients see multiple providers. Information must be shared across multiple providers in order to result in proper diagnosis, treatment and ongoing effective decision making. Sharing of information electronically can also serve to improve cost efficiencies throughout the healthcare system.
  15. Integration of research, operational and IT analytics. Look for increased requirements to integrate data from many different internal and external sources. Researchers, business execs, doctors and IT professionals will collaborate to provide better overall care to patients. Vendors will increase their focus on integrating platforms, applications and data.
  16. IoT for the hospital. Leading hospitals will develop long-term strategies to leverage sensors and wearables throughout their operations in order to build a real-time sense-and-respond intelligent operation that cuts costs and improves patient experiences and outcomes. Researchers, nurses and doctors will spend less time doing administrative work and more time with patients.
  17. Skills gap. As the industry transforms toward digital, healthcare organizations will realize they don’t have all the data and analytics skills that are required. Competition for top-tier data scientists and related talent will remain a pervasive industry pain point for healthcare providers and payer organizations.
  18. Leadership challenges. There is a growing need for data-driven vision and leadership in the executive ranks within the healthcare industry. The industry needs executives who understand the value that IoT and analytics will bring to the industry. Vendors can help push this transformation with an increased focus on the benefits of analytics.

As you can see, a lot will be happening in 2016 around the intersection of healthcare and the IoT. Key drivers will be an increasing demand for advanced healthcare information systems that can cut costs and drive improved patient-centered care.

Additional reading

Original article here.



IoT 2017 Report: How the IoT is improving lives to transform the world

2017-04-05 - By 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is disrupting businesses, governments, and consumers and transforming how they interact with the world. Companies are going to spend almost $5 trillion on the IoT in the next five years — and the proliferation of connected devices and massive increase in data has started an analytical revolution.

To gain insight into this emerging trend, BI Intelligence conducted an exclusive Global IoT Executive Survey on the impact of the IoT on companies around the world. The study included over 500 respondents from a wide array of industries, including manufacturing, technology, and finance, with significant numbers of C-suite and director-level respondents. 

Through this exclusive study and in-depth research into the field, BI Intelligence details the components that make up IoT ecosystem. We size the IoT market in terms of device installations and investment through 2021. And we examine the importance of IoT providers, the challenges they face, and what they do with the data they collect. Finally, we take a look at the opportunities, challenges, and barriers related to mass adoption of IoT devices among consumers, governments, and enterprises.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • We project that there will be a total of 22.5 billion IoT devices in 2021, up from 6.6 billion in 2016.
  • We forecast there will be $4.8 trillion in aggregate IoT investment between 2016 and 2021.
  • It highlights the opinions and experiences of IoT decision-makers on topics that include: drivers for adoption; major challenges and pain points; stages of adoption, deployment, and maturity of IoT implementations; investment in and utilization of devices, platforms, and services; the decision-making process; and forward- looking plans.

In full, the report:

  • Provides a primer on the basics of the IoT ecosystem
  • Offers forecasts for the IoT moving forward and highlights areas of interest in the coming years
  • Looks at who is and is not adopting the IoT, and why
  • Highlights drivers and challenges facing companies implementing IoT solutions

To get your copy of this invaluable guide to the IoT, choose one of these options:

  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
  2. Purchase the report and download it immediately from our research store. >> BUY THE REPORT

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the IoT.

Original article here.


These are the Leading Credit Card Processing companies

2017-04-04 - By 

Credit card processors are mostly responsible for data transmission and security when you use your card at a store or online to make a purchase.

There are two types of processors in the payment-card system. Front-end processors route transactions from merchants to the cardholder’s bank to gain authorization; that is, they make sure a customer has enough available credit or funds to make a purchase. Back-end processors are responsible for a fund’s settlement, which ends with the merchant receiving a deposit for transactions. 

Below, we’ve outlined the major players in credit card processing and described their major strengths.

  • Bank of America Merchant ServicesBank of America Merchant Services has the advantage of functioning within the second-largest bank in the U.S. The service promises acceptance of all kinds of payments (credit cards, debit cards, electronic checks, and gift cards), access to funds on the next business day, and mobile support.
  • Citibank:  The consumer division of Citigroup processes transactions in more than 100 currencies. It offers end-to-end processing services, from pricing to transactions, reporting, customer service, and billing.
  • Wells Fargo: One of the “Big Four” U.S. banks, Wells Fargo offers next-business day funding, encryption and tokenization technology, and support for both PIN and signature transactions.
  • Chase Paymentech: The payment processing arm of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., authorizes and processes payments in more than 130 currencies. And like its peers, it offers analytics, fraud detection, and security solutions.
  • Barclays: Barclaycard payment solutions facilitates in-person, phone, web, and even mail order payments through desktop and portable card machines.
  • Vantiv: Vantiv has been successful thanks to its nearly error-free purchases, authorizations, and captures. In May 2015, it successfully completed 95% of these transactions, ahead of competitors such as Worldpay, PayPal, and Braintree. The company also has a significant speed advantage, as it often processes payments data in less than a second.
  • First Data: First Data facilitates small business payments with its Clover suite of products, including a mini reader that works without Wi-Fi and a mobile reader that attaches to other devices in order to process payments on the go.
  • Cielo: Cielo is the largest Brazilian credit and debit card operator and the largest payment systems company in Latin America. The company debuted on the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange in 2010.
  • TSYS: Short for Total System Services, TSYS supports millions of buyers and sellers around the world through four major branches: issuing services, acquiring services, prepaid solutions, and merchant solutions.
  • Global Payments: Global Payments focuses on ensuring businesses accept all major forms of payments. To that end, its services include credit/debit/purchasing cards, electronic check conversion, money transfer, verification and recovery services, gift/loyalty cards, check guarantee, ACH checks, financial EDI services, and point-of-sale equipment.
  • Worldpay: The UK-based company is one of the longest-tenured online payment platforms. The company provides several payment services for both online and in-store channels. As of August 2016, the company had 400,000 merchant clients. In 2015, it processed 13 billion transactions valued at more than $526 billion. Worldpay has grown its volume primarily because of early-mover advantages that have allowed it to build scale. It also provides many different services across channels, which diversifies its revenue streams. 
  • Moneris: Moneris is the largest credit and debit card processor and acquirer in Canada. It processes more than three billion transactions each year for more than 350,000 merchants, and the company employs more than 1,900 people in North America.
  • Fiserv: American Banker and BAI ranked Fiserv third by revenue among technology providers to U.S. banks in October 2015. Fiserv provides services in account processing, electronic payments processing, check processing, web and mobile banking, and more.
  • Adyen: Adyen provides e-commerce companies with a payment platform that includes gateway, risk management, and front-end processing services. Adyen is a full-stack gateway and has famous merchants like Facebook and Spotify as clients. The company has brought in merchants thanks to its single platform that can support payments in any channel across 100 different payment methods and 200 countries. The firm processed $50 billion in 2015, up 100% from $25 billion in 2014. It earned $350 million in revenue in 2015, and expects to break $500 million in 2016. 
  • Heartland Payment Systems: Heartland helps businesses move beyond accept ng major credit cards. The company facilitates payment processing in-store, online, and offsite through multiple methods, such as EMV, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and gift cards. It also offers next-day funding, real-time reporting, and 24/7 customer service in the U.S.
  • Elavon: Formerly known as NOVA, this company is a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp. Elavon processes payments in more than 30 countries for more than one million merchants.

More to Learn

These card processors handle so much volume and so many dollars every day, but they are still just one piece of the larger payments ecosystem, which includes issuers, merchants, and more.

Original article here.


How blockchain could soon affect everyday lives

2017-04-03 - By 

Could 2017 be the year of blockchain, when the digital transaction system breaks free from computer geeks, bitcoin enthusiasts and academics to make an impact on ordinary households?

Blockchain is e-banking on a vast scale, minus the bank and other middlemen who take charge fees for making payments. It’s a digital scorecard of payments, contracts, property ownership, health records – in fact any data of economic value. It promises to put individuals in control of their own personal information and keep it safe from exploitation or fraud.

Here are five Swiss companies developing blockchain services that could have an impact on your daily lives sometime soon.

Health records

Everyone has medical records, and many people are adding personalised health information via wearables and apps that measure everything from your heart rate, blood sugar levels and how many steps you take each day. But how do you make this mountain of data work for you rather than companies who make a buck distributing it to advertisers and the health industry?

The ’world’s first citizen-owned medical data storage platform’, Healthbankexternal link, says it has the answer. The Healthbank cooperative allows people to store their data in a secure zone that only they can access. Users can later choose to make money from their data by connecting via the platform with medical research projects, online prescription services and other commercial ventures.

Healthbank currently runs on a centralised platform, but chief executive Reto Schegg sees great potential for rolling out the service on blockchain. Schegg is particularly excited about blockchain’s suitability for digital smart contracts should users wish, for example, to take out health insurance. It would also be conceivable to see a new digital currency aimed specifically at the health market in future, Schegg added.

Hence, Healthbank is actively exploring options to tap into blockchain – a system tailor made for such technological advances.

Legal contracts

Many companies and individuals are wasting money by asking expensive lawyers to draw up simple legal documents, according to Antoine Verdon. So he co-founded the LegalHubexternal link platform that offers the advice and tools that people need to draft their own contracts – at a reduced cost.

The service includes smart contracts, digital legal papers that are drawn up, stored and executed online. This is where blockchain comes in – not just for storage or distribution, but principally for security.

Each piece of data, including smart contracts, that is encoded and deposited on blockchain is also recorded on the ledger. If someone tampers with the contract, or ties to duplicate it without authorisation, the system will notice – and so will its users. This is why blockchain is so suitable for bitcoins. By recording the precise number of currency units that are added to the ledger, it becomes impossible to copy bitcoins without drawing attention.

Verdon believes it will soon be normal practice for people to draw up their own smart contracts when renting out an apartment. Likewise, it will also be possible for renters to automatically get back their deposits once they meet the terms of the contract on handover – all without the need for banks.


On blockchain, votes can be ‘transacted’ just as easily as digital currencies, such a bitcoin. Each voter gets a digital identity, joins the network and registers their preferred option in an election or referendum. That vote is recorded and added to a chain of blocks in the system.

Voting can be performed on a smartphone or other device, making it easy to register votes at any time and at any place in the world – provided you have an authorised digital signature. So no more queuing for the ballot box at the local school with a slip of paper or showing up at the town square for a show of hands.

Swiss start-up Procivisexternal link promises to provide an essential link in any future blockchain e-voting system. Procivis is a platform that checks and manages digital identities – a secure gateway that allows registered voters to enter the e-voting system whilst preventing fraud. As yet, Swiss e-voting is in its infancy and at a largely experimental phase.

Once the government establishes a nationwide eID system, Procivis founder Daniel Gasteiger believes his platform will be well placed to offer a wide variety of blockchain services, from e-voting to paying car parking fees without having to find the right change for a meter.


The tamper-proof qualities of blockchain has also attracted the attention of start-up Modumexternal link, which together with the University of Zurich has designed a system to ensure the safe delivery of pharmaceutical drugs.

Medicaments often need to be transported under exacting temperature, humidity and light conditions to make sure they remain usable when they arrive at the doctor’s surgery. Modum’s sensors can constantly measure the temperature conditions on batches of drugs in transport.

There are many such sensory systems in the world, but Modum is using blockchain to tackle the related problem of how to store such data and make sure it gets to the right person at the right time. Under the present system, cargoes can pass through many hands, involving a lot of paperwork that can be tampered with, according to Modum’s Marc Degen.

Blockchain would indelibly record any alterations to data and identify more easily at which point a cargo got damaged, he said. It could also be used to automatically trigger smart contracts, such as due payments and insurance clauses to cover damaged goods.


Geneva-based gaming company EverdreamSoftexternal link has established Project Orb, which stands for ‘ownership revolution of the blockchain’. Their blockchain gaming platform will provide players with a gaming wallet to exchange cards and BitCrystal tokens to be used in games such as Spells of Genesis – billed as “the first blockchain-based mobile game”.

Players have to trade or buy cards containing assets that will protect the Askian region on the world of Moonga from marauding monsters. Already launched as a soft version, Spells of Genesis will soon give players the opportunity of trading cards via blockchain.

EverdreamSoft says it is “pioneering ‘true ownership’ of digital assets” and a platform that will allow “more game studios to embrace blockchain technology and to enter a new age for the game industry”.

Original article here.

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