Mobile for the Contactless Economy: Transcending Process Disruption

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The next phase of a post-COVID world will be one of reduced physical contact, tighter regulations, and new habits and hygiene practices. This will translate into significant process changes which will be deeply enabled by mobile technology. All mobile form factors will be more integrated into how we interact.  Interactional changes will be found in our homes, offices, public spaces and services.

In this blog post I address two fundamental questions as a technologist on the underpinnings of this shift:

  • How can enterprises find ways of rebuilding and cementing trusted relationships using mobile technology?
  • How does our infrastructural foundations support mobile technology for contactless transactions? (privacy, two-factor authentication, data quality and so on)

Situational shift to mobile

Given the rapid shifts in the last six months in how we can interact with each other, enterprises will have to be agile and flexible in process design going forward to optimize opportunities for customer engagements.

We will continue to have further disruptions on how we live and work in the next 12 to 18 months and potentially beyond. Some of the shifts towards mobile have been expected for a while, yet this crisis has pushed the timeline ahead as to how we engage.

Use cases in the “new normal”

Here are some use case examples in this next phase of business where mobile enables the transaction between consumer and environment:

Education. The reskilling and training certification that will be necessary to address unemployment, will be on Mobile First. Because of bandwidth, learner attention span, and form factor, there will be retooling of educational programs to be bite-sized and more media oriented.

Retail. Retail and delivery businesses shifting to remote first, with drop-off points that use mobile for contactless signatory and payment.

Healthcare. Telemedicine primarily by mobile devices (phone, laptop, phablet). Personal medical data sharing over mobile will require enhanced data encryption and two-factor authentication, which needs addressing via encryption and authentication.

Entrepreneurship. More side hustles that are mobile-based and mobile administered. Any authorization and transaction-oriented activities will be driven by mobile.

Government. Requests for document renewal or identity authentication for approval or submission of materials, with one-touch request.

Supply chain. Visibility and tracking of inbound and outbound materials.  One-click reordering, and contactless payment verification.

Workplace. Contactless engagement with mobile as authentication of actions (coffee machine payment, copier usage, keyless office, meeting room allocation).

Facilities management. Hygiene controls with personnel health detail tracking (who cleans what room when).  Deep cleaning management tools for audit trails, liability.

Role of mobile in creating engagement

Building trust

As we filter through the level of rubbish coming at us via social media, websites and our email, most of us are looking for a trusted information source. Our mobile is our window to the world, and many are applying appropriate filtration to make that world a bit more manageable.

The reason that people did previously download an app was partly based on what information had to be handed over in terms of permissions. The app builder needs to build a trusted relationship on benefit, not on what can be leveraged from the consumer.

To build that trust and create a closer engagement – albeit driven by situational need vs. consumer want – app developers need to consider these consumer needs:

  • Level of trust in quality of information provided (e.g. weather info vs something more critical)
  • Trust in app data usage and functionality (does it work?)
  • Privacy of data being used and being held (statements and auditability)
  • Location of data (on whose device: client or server)
  • Speed and reaction time (Is there edge computing or the use of IoT to help push mobile information quickly?)
  • Loss of data or loss of device and the impact on app access (More than lost passwords, lost processes and lost data)

Technological foundations for mobile usage

Network and bandwidth

We have all experienced bandwidth issues in the last few months, either sharing bandwidth with loved ones in lockdown to peak periods of video conferencing activity across geographic regions. Entertainment content providers such as Netflix and Disney+ were asked to lower the quality of the data streaming.

But then what online activity will take priority? Will we start to see pricing differentials for guarantees of availability? What about subscription models with platinum, gold and silver memberships (as in frequent flyer programmes) as to the network bandwidth you or your activity is allocated? Will things be done over VPN not only for privacy but for priority? I also see VPN as a possible solution towards issues like Zoom bombing and other intrusions to daily business operations.

We come to the role of a pandemic in 5G investment, which is similar to the role of investment in R&D during an economic downturn. Clearly, the world needs better bandwidth with more agility and future-proofed for functionality. You cannot drive a fast car on a bumpy road with potholes.

But for countries losing thousands of citizens to a virus with critical infrastructure at risk, where is the priority of a better telecom infrastructure? My colleague Shamir Amanullah wrote a report prior to the pandemic about the Race for 5G in Southeast Asia which is a good barometer for other regions. There is a good CNBC article from Todd Wassermann on the US situation, and a rather excellent survey on consumer sentiment on 5G from February 2020 by Politico.

Role of data quality and its security

Going back to my previous statement about rubbish and social media, the validation and quality of data exchange is part of the value proposition of using mobile technology.

What aspects of our current IT infrastructure create that ‘data value add’?

IoT and Edge Computing. Most of us are not going to be comfortable in crowds going forward. If I can reserve a space, or I can use a sensor to see how full an environment currently is, it will impact my decision to go somewhere. The faster that real-time information is processed and available, the better the outcome.

Blockchain technology is functioning enough to address the challenge of how to secure the data and prevent malicious cyber-attacks. This includes medical data hacking, supply chain theft, and other data-oriented safety issues on hygiene and product providence that we are experiencing now.

Final thoughts

At Ecosystm, we highlight how and where enterprises plan to invest and adopt technology while adding insights and expertise on to the use cases and trends. We are also able to reflect upon the agility of the same enterprises to make that technology investment count towards the next phase of their business model. In a post-COVID situation we see inventive ways enterprises are using technology. This is not only for societal benefit, but to make a difference in the marketplace. And mobile plays a key role in this next phase of engagements.

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Blockchain in the Public Sector Enabling Better Citizen Service

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Governments across the globe are realising the true potential of emerging technologies to provide better citizen services and to ensure transparency and accountability. Blockchain is one of the emerging technologies that is helping and will continue to help governments to achieve transformation. Government departments and agencies are being increasingly pushed to be collaborative and share data across agencies, while at the same time maintain the security of the data in their care. A distributed ledger that can share information based on agreed-upon protocols helps governments immensely in collaborating without losing accountability.

What are the key priorities of public sector organisations? The global Ecosystm CX study finds that citizens and employees are the top priorities for government agencies and departments.

Top Business Priorities of Public Sector Organisations

Blockchain can help the public sector achieve many of its goals –

Improving Citizen Services

As more countries aim to be eGovernments, there is a need for real-time data access, information management, and fraud prevention. Blockchain is enabling governments to provide innovative services to citizens. It is possible now to decentralise the citizen database, reducing the time and cost of fetching records. Moreover, Blockchain enhances transparency and makes the highly regulated public sector audit-ready by creating a single source of truth for all connected devices and stakeholders.

One of the earliest use cases we see is in records management. Population records are useful for several agencies from healthcare to civil services to welfare departments.  In Myanmar, UNICEF has collaborated with the industry to introduce a mobile birth and death registration system based on Blockchain. This digital mobile recording system is maintained on an integrated platform controlled by several parties who maintain birth and death records of Myanmar’s citizens and is a step towards achieving universal registration.

Citizen services such as notarisation, recording and time-stamping events, transactional real-estate contracts, online storing and verification of academic degrees, identity management and so on are benefiting from Blockchain deployment.

In Georgia, the government department of Land, Property and Housing Management is using Blockchain to maintain land and property records. The blockchain-based land registry allows speedier approvals with no involvement of paperwork or multi-party signatures on physical documents. This is enhancing service quality while offering better security measures as the data is digitally stored in the National Agency of Public Registry’s land title database.

 

Improving Employee Experience

Maintaining massive records about individuals, organisations, assets, activities, location and national information by the government department employees is a time-consuming process. In addition to this, managing and updating the ever-growing records is made more difficult by data silos and information management protocols and of course errors creep in.

Blockchain is streamlining the workflow and information management system at an individual as well as at a departmental level. In government departments, Blockchain can redefine processes by including events and agents in a block-based system where each activity can be easily managed and accounted for. This prevents issues such as miscounts, delayed processes and slipped deadlines.

The Chilean National Energy Commission has piloted a Blockchain platform to regulate the energy sector such as installed capacity, average market price, marginal costs, hydrocarbons and more. To implement this, first the energy data was stored on an Open Energy database which was then distributed across hundreds of secure servers countrywide. Later the employees verified anomalies which minimised their workload and made it convenient to edit the central database. The information added to open ledger is readily available to employees and citizens.

 

Compliance with Regulations

One of the primary benefits of Blockchain technology in the public sector is compliance. The transactions recorded on distributed ledgers are documented in a central ledger providing a comprehensive, precise, irreversible, permanent and secure trail. For instance, Blockchain is used to streamline cross-border compliance adherence by matching the data with the actual trade transactions. This creates an efficient and secure system ensuring real-time compliance, significant reduction of transaction costs, elimination of customs evasion and fraud from the outset.

In June, the Chinese Customs deployed its cross-border Blockchain compliance solution. The platform aims to increase efficiency by monitoring the flow of imports and exports and helping with risk assessments and document management. As transaction information can be stored safely and transparently on a Blockchain, the platform enables easy identification of documents to be checked, making compliance easier.

 

Data Management and Privacy

Blockchain acts as a default record keeper for society and governments and prevents the data from being misused by criminals and hackers. Through the responsible deployment of Blockchain data structures, governments can strengthen network security by reducing risks of single points-of-failure and preventing data breaches.

Democracy Earth – a Blockchain-based community has established a decentralised online governance platform, entirely built on open source technologies. The website helps users to cast votes on various policies based on tokens assigned to the users. This also minimises expenses and creates a secure information flow in a Blockchain-based voting system.

Government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are also getting serious about Blockchain applications in data management and privacy. DHS is funding R&D in Blockchain start-ups to explore new approaches to cybersecurity. The U.S. military is also utilising Blockchain (SIMBA Chain) to secure its military communication, messaging and applications. Blockchain is used for communication between ground troops and their headquarters. In addition to securing communications, the US Airforce is using Blockchain to track 3D printed components throughout their life cycle. With SIMBA, the top-secret printing blueprints are shared without much surveillance – this has enabled the Department of Defense to maintain a digital library of parts.

 

Cost Reductions

The government has clear citizen responsibilities and fulfilling them with a limited set of resources is one of the prime challenges for public departments. Reconciling expenditure with the budget is a time-consuming, and expensive procedure. Blockchain-based payment and accounting systems can help governments to reduce process costs by removing redundancies, streamlining processes, decreasing audit burden and ensuring systems integrity. By removing the requirement for third-party agencies to handle operations and maintain records, Blockchain technology is helping governments to reduce costs.

 

Blockchain is still an emerging concept with significant benefits. The Ecosystm IoT study finds that only 20% of public sector IT decision-makers are fully aware of the capabilities and limitations of Blockchain.  Adopters and developers are still resolving the challenges. On the technology side, there are concerns on platform scalability, integration, standardisation and validation methods. On the management side, there are concerns about business models, transaction scale, maturity, and structure. However, government agencies will benefit immensely from the technology in the near future.

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