Financial Technology Company
As first reported over two years ago by Israeli intelligence, the popular Kaspersky Lab antivirus software, relied on by over 400 million people globally, including U.S. government agencies, has been a “Google search [engine] for sensitive information.” Included in the Kaspersky network were hacking tools that appear to have been created by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The New York Times reported in one case an NSA employee had improperly stored classified documents on his home computer that was running Kaspersky antivirus software. After investigating, the NSA confirmed those sensitive hacking tools were in the possession of the Russian government.
After over two years, the U.S. government just last month finally ordered the removal of Kaspersky software from government computers. But before you roll your eyes at the irony of NSA employees and U.S. government agencies trusting Russian security software, you might be surprised to learn how often you are falling into the same trap with your reliance on “secure” encryption and communications platforms sponsored by U.S. intelligence agencies. Click here for a disturbing read.
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By now, you have likely been wowed by the incredible technology of 3D printing. Currently, 3D printing is one of the most popular areas for technology research, as the industrial applications are abundant. Not only that, 3D printers have saturated the market, and are becoming increasingly more affordable and available to the public; you may even know someone with a 3D printer in their home. With a 3D printer, one can turn a digital file into a three-dimensional object before their very eyes, which seems to offer endless possibilities.1 It may seem like 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has only just been invented, but in actuality, it has been 30 years in the making.2 As 3D printing has turned a corner, so comes the new technology that everyone is talking about: 4D printing.
What is 4D Printing?
4D Printing uses 3D-printing technology and takes it to the next level. You could think of 4D printing as adding a fourth dimension to 3D printing: time. Essentially, 4D printing creates a three-dimensional object that changes according to its environment.3 4D printing uses geometric code so that the printed object can transform by itself.4 These “smart objects” can assemble themselves or change shape according to their environment. This exciting new technology has caught the attention of a variety of industries due to its many potential uses.
4D printing is a new technology that has only been in development since 2013.5 However, 3D printing — its predecessor that is essential to the technology, has been evolving over the last 30 years. It may seem as though 3D printing is newer than that because there have been so many recent innovations with the technology, but it all began in the 1980s with Charles Hull, co-founder of 3D Systems.6 In 1986, he patented stereolithography, a process that used digital data to create a three-dimensional model.7 In 1992, 3D systems created the first machine that performed this technique, called a stereolithographic apparatus (SLA) machine. Meanwhile, the two other main 3D printing technologies were being invented. In 1988, Carl Deckard of the University of Texas patented SLS technology, which 3D prints using a laser to fuse together powder grains.8 That same year, Scott Crump, co-founder of Stratasys, patented the Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) method of 3D printing, the most commonly used today.9 In Europe, EOS GmbH was founded by Hans Langer, which created the first “Stereos” system that offered the first production applications for 3D printing.
In the 1990s, the world of 3D printing expanded, with new leaders emerging with new technologies. In 1992, Stratasys patented FDM, leading others to develop new ways to 3D print. Tools for 3D printing became more widely available, facilitated in part by the Sanders Prototype (now Solidscape) that was one of the first players to offer tools specifically designed for additive manufacturing.10 The ‘90s also saw incredible new applications for 3D printing in the medical field; the first lab-grown organ was engineered at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, opening up the door for a 3D printed prosthetic leg, mini-kidney, and blood vessels.11
In 2004, the first self-replicating 3D printer was created. This enabled the mass production of these machines, and now people could have them in their homes. In 2005, the first color 3D printer was released by ZCorp.12 In 2009, the FDM patent was released to the public domain, which facilitated the invention of a slew of FDM 3D printers, the lowering of the price of 3D printers, and more visibility around this technology. Since then, the production of 3D printers has skyrocketed, and public awareness of 3D printing is higher than ever; in his 2013 presidential State of the Union address, Barack Obama mentioned 3D printing as a major issue for the future of the country.13 In the last ten years, 3D technology has seen giant leaps within the medical and commercial industries. In 2013, head of the Self-Assembly Lab of MIT Skylar Tibbits started research into 4D printing, which continues to develop today thanks to the teamwork of Self-Assembly Lab, Stratasys, and Autodesk.14 Today, with the new evolution of 4D technology, we have seen that the future is full of more incredible developments.
How it Works
A 4D printer is essentially a 3D printer that has been adapted to be able to print “smart” materials.15 3D printers use a layering process to create shapes, whether by SLA or any of the other methods. Regardless of which method is used, the basic premise of 3D printing is to successively build layers on top of one another to create a shape. In 4D printing, this same process is used, but is applied to create models that can change themselves. During the process, the smart material bonds with the plastic used to print the object and can absorb water. Once the object is printed, the water in the smart material expands, causing the shape to change. This enables the printed object to have several different dimensions; it could go from a 1D object to 3D, a 2D surface to a 3D object, or morph from one 3D shape to another.16 Each 4D model is specially designed to react and form a new shape when the water expands. While water is used in current prototypes, this material could potentially be made out of a variety of activation materials, such as temperature, vibration, pressure, or light. Once these new activation methods have been fully developed, the possibilities are endless.
The military has shown interest in 4D printing, granting a $855,000 grant to the 4D research efforts of a team of researchers from The University of Illinois, The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, and Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, respectively.17 While the research is still in its infancy, there are a lot of potential military applications for this technology. For example, there is a vision of a military vehicle that adapts to the environment in order to protect it from damage and corrosion.18 Additionally, there is talk of uniforms that are able to transform based on environment to better camouflage soldiers or to protect against poisonous gases or shrapnel, as well as self-assembling weaponry.19 This investment in 4D technology reflects the U.S. military’s desire to have a firm technological advantage in the battlefield, and 4D printing may reveal itself to be a great boon in the future.
The concept of 4D technology already has several commercial industries excited, and it isn’t hard to understand why. One such industry is the sportswear industry.20 Research is currently being conducted on a “smart shoe,” which would be able to turn into a running shoe when you run that would turn waterproof when you meet a puddle or otherwise adapt to changes in the environment. While many experiments have been conducted into other commercial applications for 4D printing, one can imagine how every industry could ultimately benefit. For example, boxes printed on a 4D printer would be able to unfold and refold themselves.21 Businesses could ship their inventory in these boxes, the boxes would fold themselves, and they could ship them back to the warehouse, saving them millions of dollars on the cost of shipping materials. Just imagine buying a piece of furniture and having it assemble itself once it is out of the box!22 4D printing could revolutionize so many industries that we cannot even fathom everything it will bring. When thinking along these lines, the possibilities are endless.
Perhaps most astounding developments are the potential medical applications for 4D printing. Currently, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at Wollongong University is researching 4D printing applications for medicine.23 As we know, 3D printing has already revolutionized the medical field by making prosthetics and implants as well as fabricating tissues and organs.24 4D printing has the potential to be even more radical. One area of research currently being explored is the idea of 4D-printed medical implants.25 These implants could change shape according to changes in the body. For example, a 4D-printed cardiac tube could change shape in response to a sudden change in blood pressure. Additionally, this technology could be used to make drug capsules that release medication in response to illness; for example, if it were to respond with body temperature, the drugs would be released immediately when a fever begins.26
In the future, 4D printing will have completely changed our world. Houses will be delivered to you in boxes and will assemble themselves. Bridges will never collapse because they will have the ability to repair any damage they experience.27 Your pipes will never freeze because they will be able to expand, contract, and adjust temperature according to the weather. Our clothes will adapt according to temperature and climate. We will live longer because our wearable medical technology will let us know the moment there are any health concerns on the horizon. We will be able to build structures on other planets because we will be able to send materials to deep space without the need for human beings or robots.28 Energy will be completely revolutionized as 4D printers will create solar panels that respond to temperature, expanding and contracting according to their settings.29 Once more research has been conducted, 4D printing promises to change life as we know it.
Interested in learning more about 3D and 4D printing? View the links below.
The Emergence of 4D Printing – TED Talk by Skylar Tibbits
Programmable Matter: 4D Printing’s Promises and Risk – Georgetown Journal
3D Printing Raises Ethical Issues in Medicine – ABC Science
How 4D Printing Is Now Saving Lives – Computerworld
A Review on Recent Progresses in 4D Printing – Virtual and Physical Prototyping
In the last few years, you may have heard some buzz about blockchain technology. In a recent report from the World Economic Forum, it was estimated that by 2025, 10 percent of the GDP will be stored using blockchains or within related technology.1 With this in mind, it is imperative to understand this technology so you can take the jump on what will certainly be an abundance of opportunities.
What is blockchain technology?
Blockchain technology has been described as “the internet of value.”2 The internet is where we share information, and while we can transfer value (money) online, it requires intervention by financial institutions like banks. Currently, all online payment methods (like Paypal or Venmo) require connection to a bank account or credit card. Blockchain technology is intriguing because it offers the potential to eliminate the need to involve banks in transactions. Blockchain technology records transactions, confirms identity, and arranges contracts, all of which previously required a financial institution. Currently, blockchains, also known as “distributed ledgers” or “digital ledgers”3, are used to keep track of economic transactions of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies; however, this technology has the potential to revolutionize far more than financial services.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies
The blockchain was invented by a person (or group) who goes by the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the creator of bitcoin.4 Bitcoin are a kind of digital currency that is exchanged directly between two people in a transaction; no bank is necessary as an intermediary.5 Bitcoin was invented in response to the 2008 financial crisis; the mysterious Nakamoto, whose real identity has not been established, published an essay outlining the problems of the traditional fiat currency and presented bitcoin as an alternative.6 When it was first released, bitcoin excited people because it offered the possibility to escape the credit bubble cycle that is a staple of traditional currency. However, financial institutions also keep track of every transaction to ensure that no dollar is spent twice, and clearly, with paper currency, you can’t keep reusing the same bill over and over. With digital currency, there was the potential issue of someone using the same bitcoin again and again. Nakamoto created blockchains to combat this issue. This innovative cryptography is so advanced that it has proven impossible to attack, leading many to believe that either Nakamoto is a complete genius or is the pseudonym for a team of advanced programmers and economists. However, it is unlikely that the true identity of this brilliant innovator will be publicly known anytime soon; after all, it makes sense to hide when it comes to experimenting with currency too publicly. After all, when Hawaiian resident Bernard von NotHaus produced and sold “Liberty Dollars” in 2009 he was arrested and charged for breaking federal law. Nakamoto’s anonymity allows him (or her, or them) to provide this astounding digital currency to the world without repercussion.
How it works
In the context of bitcoin, the blockchain serves as a database that holds the payment history of every single bitcoin, serving as proof of ownership.7 The blockchain is then broadcast to a network of thousands of computers, which are known as “nodes.” These nodes are all over the globe and publicly available. Despite how open it is, it is also incredibly secure and trustworthy. How is that possible? Through its “consensus mechanism.” This is how nodes work in tandem to update the blockchain in response to transfers from one person to another.
For example: Jill wishes to use bitcoin to pay Bill for his services. Jill and Bill both have their own bitcoin wallets, which is software that is used to store bitcoin by accessing the blockchain without identifying a user to this system. Jill’s wallet communicates with the blockchain, asking that her wallet loses bitcoin and Bill’s gains them. To confirm this, there are a number of steps the blockchain must go through. Upon receiving the proposal, the nodes work to check whether Jill has the bitcoin necessary to make this transaction. If she does, a specialized group of nodes called miners combine this proposal with other similar transactions, creating a new block for the blockchain. To do this, miners must feed data through a “hash” function, which simplifies the block into a string of digits of a certain length. This is a one-way process: while it’s simple for data to go to hash, hash cannot go back to data. While hash does not host this data, it is entirely unique to it. If a block is changed in any way, whether entirely or by a single digit, a different hash will result.
The hash is then put into the header of the block. This header is used for a mathematical puzzle that again uses the hash function. This puzzle can only be solved using trial and error. Miners go through the trillions of possibilities to look for the answer to this puzzle. Once a miner discovers this solution, it is checked by other nodes (while solving takes time, checking is a simple process), and the solution is confirmed and updates the blockchain. The header’s hash becomes the new identifying string of the block, and it is officially part of the blockchain. Jill’s payment to Bill is confirmed and reflected in their bitcoin wallets.
This method introduces three factors that ensure the security of bitcoin. The first is chance. There is no way to predict which miner will find the solution to the puzzle, so it is impossible to determine who will update the blockchain; this makes it difficult to trick the system. Next, the extensive history within the blockchain serves as security. Within each header, there the hash of the previous header, which contains hash from the one before that, and so it goes on to the very beginning. This is what composes the blocks of the blockchain. Therefore, making any change in any of the headers, even back to the earliest blocks, changes the subsequent headers. As the blockchain no longer matches the latest block, it will not be accepted.
Is there any way to cheat the system? Technically, but it is highly unlikely. Say Jill decides she wants to rewrite the history so that instead of the bitcoin goes to Bill, they actually stay in her wallet. If she knew how to mine well, she could potentially solve the puzzle and produce a new blockchain. However, in the time it took her, the rest of the nodes would have added more headers to the blockchain, lengthening it, because nodes always work on the longest version of the blockchain. This is to stop issues from occurring when two miners find the solution at the same time; with this measure, it just causes a temporary fork. This also prevents Jill from cheating the system. In order to get the system to accept her version, Jill would have to lengthen the blockchain faster than the rest of the system is working on the original. In order to do so, she would have to have control over more than half of the computers, making cheating pretty much impossible.
The final way the security of bitcoin is ensured is through incentives for the nodes. When a new block is forged, it makes new bitcoin. The miner who solves the puzzle earns 25 bitcoin, which currently is worth roughly 7,500 dollars.
However, as clever as this system is, bitcoin is still not an extremely attractive currency. Its value is unstable and the amount currently in circulated has been intentionally limited. However, the blockchain technology functions so well, it has created a lot of buzz about its potential uses outside of bitcoin. Clearly, there is great potential for this technology to disrupt the financial services industry. Blockchains will likely help improve existing processes, making them more secure, inexpensive, and efficient. Additionally, new products that are beyond what we can even conceive of right now will be invented, turning financial institutions on their heads. However, the applications of this technology go well beyond the world of banking.
In the world of defense, blockchains show promise due to their incredible security. Currently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking into ways to use blockchain technology to secure military systems and ensure safe storage of nuclear weapons, among other potential applications.8 Because blockchains are near impossible to hack, the military is interested in using this incredible technology to maintain the integrity of highly sensitive data, and has contracted computer security company Galois to verify a blockchain technology created by Guardtime.9 If the project goes well, blockchain technology could soon begin to be implemented into military technology. What is particularly attractive about blockchain is not only that it is nearly impenetrable, even if a hacker were to enter into a security military network, they would be unable to make any damaging changes to the code, as only authorized users can.10 This is ideal for military use as it would prevent anyone from being able to hack in and gain control over military satellites or nuclear weapons. Today, even if a hacker couldn’t gain direct control over a weapon, they could interfere with military communication without being noticed. This is why they are particularly interested in using blockchain technology to develop a new messaging platform that would allow for completely secure communications.11
Blockchains have clear applications for the financial services industry and the military, but it can also be used to enhance the experience of consumers. The widespread use of blockchain has the potential to enable a shared economy.12 A movement towards this can be seen through companies AirBnB and Lyft, but by enabling peer-to-peer transactions on a wider scale, blockchain technology could create a sharing economy that doesn’t require a middleman (and therefore, transaction fees). Consumers could also benefit from blockchain technology because they could have greater access to information about what exactly goes into their products. More and more, consumers want to verify claims companies make about their products, and through the transparency that blockchains create, it would be far easier to either verify or disprove lofty claims. This would mean that reputation would be more important than ever for businesses. Additionally, people will be able to feel more comfortable using the internet for financial transactions, as blockchains make identity management quite simple; by being able to verify identity online, both the business and the consumer can trust the transaction. This is truly only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to commercial applications of this technology.
One place people are started to buzz about blockchains is in the world of governance.13 Blockchain could usher in an era where voter fraud and government corruption could be exposed through code. Traditional voting systems would have to be altered to be online, which would then ensure more transparency because it would hold the voting system accountable. Additionally, the extensive history that blockchains provide would prevent outright lies from being spewed by politicians, as there would be hard data to the contrary that everyone could accept; the public would be more intimately knowledgeable about the truth because the blockchains could serve as a built-in lie detector. It could even come to be that the decision-making process is streamlined through code, meaning necessary changes in law could occur at a much more accelerated pace.
Blockchain technology is set to revolutionize financial institutions, the military, the private sector, and the world. The potential uses of this technology are coming to light more each day as more industries become aware of the security and reliability of this technology. Though initially created for bitcoin, whichhas faced controversy and may not stand the test of time, blockchain technology has the potential to change the entire world.
Want to learn more about blockchain technology? Read further with these links below.
What is Blockchain Technology? – Blockgeeks
5 Ways to Invest in the Blockchain Boom – Investopedia
The Great Chain of Being Sure About Things – The Economist
Bitcoin Blockchain Technology In Financial Services: How The Disruption Will Play Out – Forbes
Block Chain 2.0: The Renaissance of Money – Wired
At Meraglim™, we take a multidimensional approach to our product. Not only do we give our clients access to our panel of prominent experts from a variety of fields, we also use an AI analytic engine to provide data analytics as a service (DAaS). More and more, companies are contracting companies to provide DAaS, as the valuable information this provides can be revolutionary for business. With the emerging technologies breaking into the market today, it’s imperative to implement the analytic tools at your disposal or risk falling behind the curve. Recently, our partner IBM collaborated with Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford to look into how banks and financial markets organizations are using data analytics to change the industry in “Analytics: The real-world use of big data in financial services.” In this blog, we will review their findings and how data can serve your team.
The Importance of Data in Financial Markets
For banks and financial services companies, there isn’t a physical product for them to offer. Supplying information is their trade, and data is an important resource for providing quantifiable support for their services. Within the financial services industry, there is endless data to be mined from the millions of transactions performed on a daily basis. The important advantage analyzing this data provides to financial institutions is evident; IBM and Saïd found that 71 percent of financial markets firms report that they have developed a competitive advantage by using financial data analytics. When comparing this statistic with the respondents to a similar research study by IBM two years prior, it increased by 97 percent. While banking data has grown to provide more valuable information, in our technologically advanced world, people are now banking and managing finances in a variety of ways. This unstructured data has important promise for reading into customer’s insight. This detailed information can guide investors, financial advisors, and bankers to making the best decisions for their customer base while staying compliant with regulatory laws. Companies have successfully used this data to identify business requirements and leverage the current infrastructure accordingly.
Big Data Movements Today
Most financial organizations today recognize the importance of big data, and are slowly implementing plans on how to use it. The majority are either currently developing a big data plan (47 percent) or are already implementing big data pilots (27 percent). In their study, IBM and Saïd found four findings that demonstrated how these companies are using big data.
The customer is king
More than half of industry respondents identified customer-driven goals to be their priority for big data. This stands to reason as more and more, banks are facing pressure to be customer-centric. Financial institutions must keep the customer in mind when designing their technology, operations, systems, and data analytics. Data analytics is an important tool because it enables companies to anticipate changes in the market and customer preferences to quickly take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves.
Companies need a scalable big data model
The research also found that the most important consideration companies must make when creating a big data model is that it must be able to accommodate the ever-growing amount of information from different sources. In a survey of these financial institutions, though only half of companies reporting said that they integrated information, IBM found that roughly 87 percent of respondents reported having the infrastructure that was necessary to accommodate the addition of more information.
Integrating data across departments and areas has been a challenge to businesses for many years now, particularly in respect to banks due to the sheer amount of data that comes into play. This complex part of integrating big data is an essential component. It most often requires the integration of new analyzing software components, such as NoSQL and Hadoop. However, the financial industry is falling behind in this respect.
Efforts are focused on existing sources of data
When looking at what financial institutions and banks are doing in terms of big data efforts, the majority are focused on using the data sources they already have internally. This makes sense, because, while big data has clear and important implications for the future of these companies, they want to take a cautionary approach rather than trying to find brand new data and risking it being useless. It also speaks to practicality, as there are many uses for the internal data of these companies that is as of yet untapped.
Most commonly, respondents to this survey were analyzing log and transactions data. Every transaction and automated function of the bank or other information system is used, which cannot be analyzed by traditional means anymore. As a result, there is years and years of data that has yet to be analyzed by these institutions. Today, the technology finally enables this information to be used, though someone with the analytical skills is also necessary.
Banks and financial markets could catch up to their peers in terms of analyzing more varied types of data. Roughly 20 percent of respondents analyzed audio data, and about 27 percent analyzed social media. A lack of focus in unstructured data could be disrupting their ability to do better in these terms.
Analytical ability is important
While data in and of itself plays an important role, it cannot be put to use without proper analysis. For big data to be the highest value, it is essential for financial institutions to access the right data, use the right tools to analyze it, and have the necessary skills to analyze it. This is why it may be necessary for financial institutions to hire outside counsel, as they may not have the needed analytical skills.
While participants in the study who were engaged in big data efforts had a strong foundation in certain major analytics, such as basic queries and predictive modeling, these institutions need to work more on data visualization and text analytics. The more data there is, the more important these two elements are to gaining meaning from data. Yet only three out of five respondents with big data efforts included data visualization.
Additionally, financial institutions fall significantly behind when compared to other industries in terms of analyzing different kinds of data. Fewer than 20 percent of respondents included the ability to analyze natural text (such as call-center conversations) in their big data efforts. Text analytics allow companies to not only look at what was said, but the nuances involved in language. These allow companies to see a bigger picture of what the customer desires and how to improve customer relations. They fall even further behind from their peers in terms of other types of data, including geospatial location data and streaming data. While they may have more technology to analyze these areas, they rarely have the people with the skills necessary to apply this data.
Based on the information they generated, the research team proposed several recommendations for financial institutions and their big data use. First, they suggested that it is imperative to focus efforts on the customer: understanding your customer is the key to success in the market. Additionally, they emphasize developing a big data plan that aligns with their business’s needs and resources; while it is important to keep up with the technology, it is imperative that an effective blueprint is in place to ensure that any challenges can be addressed. This ensures that the company can address future additional data needs. Additionally, researchers suggest that initially building on already available data is key for approaching big data analytics in a pragmatic way. Businesses should also consider their own priorities for growth and pinpointing what data to look at, as opposed to just looking at what is in front of them. Finally, they should implement big data strategies by finding quantifiable measures of success. Most importantly, business leaders and technology specialists need to be able to support each other through their endeavors to implement big data plans.
Meraglim™ is a financial technology company that uses financial data analytics to provide our clients with the information they need to remain one step ahead of everyone else. If you are curious about how our financial technology may benefit your organization, learn more here today.