In 2018 the technology world has witnessed impressive progress: AI is smarter than ever, businesses are finally embracing blockchain, and chatbots are shaping the new ways of customer interaction. What does 2019 hold for the future of tech? One thing is clear – the tech sector will continue to boom. Today, experts from local software development companies share some thoughts on how technology is disrupting financial sector, marketing, education, and healthcare. What’s the next big trend in these industries?
Victor Sarapin,CEO, V.I.Tech
There’s a lot going on in healthcare and healthtech. Growing demand for healthcare and a trend of healthcare consumerization challenge healthcare officials and physicians across the globe. And technology is going to lend a helping hand – from wellness devices and sensors to predictive analytics and operations management. However, the main challenge is not in advancing health tech per se, but in wrapping it into easy-to-understand, simple-to-use, effective product for end-users. Keep in mind that majority of healthtech companies target not young geeks and hipsters, but older generation (that is less willing to adopt applications and less keen on exploring and using them) and physicians and healthcare management (that give a cool to ice-cold welcome to any IT – mostly due to lack of transparency into its value proposition and notorious challenges in supporting them on-site). A well-known example of “doing it wrong” is IBM Watson – an absolute masterpiece of cognitive technology, that solved zero real-world healthcare problems to the moment – and seriously undermined the trust in IT in healthcare in general. So, it’s more about product focus and packaging, UX, adoption, and evangelization that will drive landscape change in healthcare systems of the world.
What about “public applications” – VAs that dwell in hospital hall (to help you with your appointment) or city square (to guide tourists around) and other public spaces? Not sure I would be comfortable with kids in preschool being raised by Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri instead of a human, but VAs of various forms already carved out a place under the sun.
Another area of attention is going to be security and privacy – even with all that happens there – social networks, re-definition of what is personal information, headlines on the news about data leaks and unexpected use and side effects, I guess, as industry and society we only dipped our toe into these challenges. So, there will be more and more questions asked there, ways to get and use information one doesn’t want to share and the ways to defend against such use. After working in healthtech for 10 years, turns out that trivial approaches don’t work here: on the one hand, there’s a need to know more and more about population and about an individual to provide quality and cost-effective care (and prevent adverse health issues as early as possible), and on the other hand there’s a growing need to protect these data and derived results from misuse – intentional or not. Health data is extremely sensitive – and often irrevocable, similar to biometric data. In other words, knowing the pattern of your flu sick leaves at work and a couple of less-significant discriminators, it’s sufficient to know who you are even with no name or SSN. So, there’s a need for better handling of such kinds of things in IT systems of today and beyond.
Surely there’s going to be not only voice – wellness bracelets, home sensors, and other devices are already part of a lifestyle and more applications are going to follow – from movement and fitness trackers and smart pill dispensers to home- or area-wide labs and appliances, data engineering and analytics security specialists and old good hardware and software engineers powering the party. And it is both pride and thrill for me and V.I.Tech to be on the cutting edge of these works – preventing a lethal heart attack less than an hour before it happens or capturing oncology on earliest stage possible due to systemic and usable care management. Having one of the largest continuous care datasets on the globe under fingertips, we have plenty of work to do.
Ivan Leshko, VP Financial Services, SoftServe
Innovation endlessly brings the risk of death to the forefathers. All the publicity comes in: saying that the old ways have vanished and the new ones will take over. When the radio came, it was believed that newspapers would die out. As a matter of fact, they integrated for the benefit of the consumers as opposed by the popular opinion. After all, no one was to lose for the other to win. This is the same scenario between FinTech firms and the existing Financial Institutions like banks and credit unions. It is not a war between the two for market share. The aim of FinTech is not to dethrone the banking industry. The banks should look forward to collaborating rather than viewing FinTech as competitors to boost business for the 21st-century digital customer.
The major players in the industry view the exponential growth of FinTech as an opportunity, not a challenge. The smaller firms find it easier to embrace new technology since they have a smaller infrastructure to implement it on. The lions in the financial worlds (from regional banks to the local credit unions) can procure financial technology products by working with basic providers in order to provide a high-quality experience for their customers.
Combining FinTech solutions with legacy banking we can create a winning synergy
- Enhanced performance and service delivery
FinTech firms will present new and better products which if used by traditional banks will improve their performance hence profitability. This is achieved by using state of the art technologies and secure networks that speed up credit card processing, money transfers, and loan processing.
Digital disruption in financial services started first in payments, where firms like PayPal were the web 1.0 pioneers. FinTechs today are disrupting money flows in three key ways: online payments for products and services purchased online (e.g. Alipay, Wepay), NFC enabled contactless payments at POS through mobile wallets (e.g. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay), and peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer over the internet.
For instance, take multi-currency digital wallets. Initially, it would force one to go to exchange booths, spend extra cash at the airport and time searching for currency exchanges during trips. This has been made easier by digital wallets. Making transactions is now more secure and faster, hence there is no need to carry around a physical wallet. For instance, Cash Dash, a mobile app, allows one to buy, collect and return foreign currency. There are also cryptocurrencies, which run on blockchains which are distributing digital ledgers. Trading exchanges and the Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) that are an alternative form of crowdfunding have enabled a lot of companies and startups acquire the funds they need to start their businesses.
- Security is a key factor
Consumers need to be sure their funds and transactions are secure with all the hacking and data theft news that have been making headlines. FinTech solutions like advances in encryption and biometric technology from firms like SoftServe which offer human recognition solutions are to add extra layers of security to make the consumer feel safe. As a welcome bonus, they are really helpful when it comes to remembering those complicated passwords for mobile payments and digital wallets.
Recently, FinTech Lab at SoftServe got a business challenge to find a new way to solve security vulnerability with cards. Different types of credit card fraud seem endless – skimming, phishing, lost or stolen cards, collusive merchants, ATM fraud, and card not present fraud (CNP) to name a few. As card payments continue to flourish in quantity and frequency of transactions, so are challenges to card payments security.
BioLock solution has improved the security of card payment. This technology analyzes characteristics of the human body to validate the person using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA), or the resistance of the human body to an electromagnetic flow in a specific range.
- Data + Cloud = Enrichment
The vast majority of costs for a retail bank come from branches and associated stuff, and these establishments have been fixated on transaction automation through online, automated alerts, and mobile. Such FinTech solutions will be an enhancement to the customer retention and preference within the legacy financial institutions. The banks and credit unions will be able to carry out deeper analysis on what the customers are spending on, hence tailor their products and services to suit them individually.
FinTech solutions are tapping into the power of the cloud which can be used by the financial institutions to offer products and services that have been customized to individual customers whenever and wherever they need it. Take digital wallets, for instance, they allow entrepreneurs to collect consumer data to enable them to adjust their marketing strategies accordingly.
- Increased granulation
The financial institutions will be channeled to an individual customer. The banks and credit unions will have products that suit the specific needs of customers, hence enhancing the diversification of their loan portfolios. For example, take RoboAdvisors and automated wealth management services. AI-powered systems provide clients with the financial advice they require and have become popular for people looking for low-cost and automated investment opportunities.
In the nick of time, the RoboAdvisors give one a personalized portfolio and provide access to wealth management services that could only be previously accessed by the ultra-wealthy. They also develop diversified portfolios, automatically selecting investments for their clients. Making automatic trades also helps in reducing tax bills for their clients. Consulting firm A.T. Kearney estimates that assets under management by RoboAdvisors will grow by 68% annually to $2.2 trillion within the next five years.
Merging systems for the future success
FinTech firms are not a threat to the traditional financial institutions as it is seen. In fact, they want to fit themselves into the fabric of the already existing financial space as facilitators and tech partners, to make the next generation banking experience a reality. From another angle: one may assume that millennials are all about digital banking and will not set foot in the traditional banking halls ever. However, a survey from JD Power shows that the digital-savvy millennials still value the local bank branch. 71% still access the branch, with an average of 11 visits per year. They are happier having access to both digital accounts and local branch access – not exclusively only branches or only digital.
The goal is to integrate the dominant financial players like the banks and credit unions with FinTech firms that enhance the strengths of both. Current efficiency, security, and data analysis concerns in the industry will be turned into opportunities. From money transfers and loans to mobile payments, asset management, and fundraising, they can leverage on the power that the collaboration will bring. This will lead to enhanced customer experience and open up new marketing opportunities.
Lesia Mandzevych, Brand Manager, Perfectial
What technology did for marketing can be compared to a revolution. It has completely torn down the old way of doing things and the shift has been so dramatic and fast that not everybody has managed to embrace it yet. We may love it or hate it, but one thing is clear – standing aside is not an option. Technology is moving fast and if we don’t keep up, we are left behind: the industry, its trends and tools, and, eventually, our jobs.
Up to the last decade (and some do it even now) businesses relied on mass campaigns while marketing their brand. And by “mass” I mean mass everything: huge media budgets, broad target audiences, messages that suit each and every one, but in fact are so neutral that mean nothing. The most popular firms were the ones who managed to maintain a decent quality of their product and spend that much money on advertising, so they could follow you everywhere you go – on TV, radio, in magazines, stores and on the streets.
Then people started using the internet, the technology era came and provided us with data – the source of all analytics. It gave us tools to tailor messages, be more precise in evaluating our audiences and channels to use in order to reach them. Suddenly we got all these websites, social media, targeted ads, being it banners or AdWords, and tons of other tools – with the real ability to measure the outcomes of our efforts and campaigns. If we try to use a fashion metaphor – it’s like we used to wear shapeless bags and now are offered custom-made designer suits. Technology made marketing smart.
The more data on users we collect the more accurate and deliberate we are in our marketing campaigns. With the rapid development of Big Data, AI and ML, marketing is getting even more automated. Over the last few years the industry of marketing technology has been booming, introducing a plethora of solutions beginning from automated newsletter platforms like MailChimp to heatmaps and even more complex tools to cover a broader range of brand’s needs. At Perfectial we’ve been working on quite a few MarkTech products. One of them allows companies to adjust their marketing campaigns based on both customer’s search history, location, preferences, etc. and other circumstances, like the weather. For example, when the forecasts show a lowering of temperature this marketing tool adjusts the ads of a clothing brand in such way that people are more likely to get to see winter jackets instead of cashmere coats. Another product we’ve been working on for over 5 years now allows brands to monitor their online presence and based on ML gives recommendations on the company’s strategy. This tool has been used by such giants as Walmart, The North Face, Vodafone, MoneyGram, etc.
While it’s undeniable that technology is here to make marketing more effective and easier to manage, there are still some drawbacks of relying solely on technology when doing marketing for your company. The first and, probably the most important one, in my opinion, is that some brands tend to get overly infatuated by quick wins instead of focusing on strategy. For instance, when some keywords have turned out to be super successful and generate lots of traffic to the site, some marketers might get too enthusiastic in repeating the success and decide to keep writing more and more blogs using these particular combinations. In this case, instead of trying to tell your brand’s story through mature and unique content (which is a strategy) we just create tons of replicas that in a long run, will fail to bring a real value – to distinguish us from our competitors. The pitfall of overusing the technology is that we sacrifice our brand’s identity in favor of quick lead generation wins. It’s worth remembering that, despite being super powerful, technology is just a tool, not a purpose.
Ivan Babichuk, Vice President Of Engineering, EduNav;
Supervisory Board Chairman, Lviv IT Cluster
The EdTech market has drastically increased over the last few decades. It is expected that by 2020 investments in this market will exceed $ 252 billion. As a matter of fact, technology changed our approaches to education and our perception of it. Kids are equipped with smartphones and tablets starting from primary school. They use them both for entertainment and education. It became an integral part of their life. Our task is to make sure technology encourages learning and simplifies their lives.
At EduNav we solve serious issues of higher education in the USA with the help of technology. From the perspective of Ukrainian education, it’s hard to understand their problems. American education may even look perfect, but actually, there are two critical challenges: affordability and graduation rate. Only 19% of American students get a 4-year Bachelor degree on time. The situation in colleges is even worse – only 5% graduate without a delay. On average, students graduate with 3-4 years delay or do not graduate at all. Many students transfer from one college to another. About 40% of them lose all credits when they transfer.
Why such a problem occurs? Universities offer a huge range of courses: both compulsory and elective. Often a university has 30-40 thousand of courses a student can choose from. Unfortunately, first-year students don’t see the big picture: they don’t realize the consequences of choosing extra courses and don’t know how much time they need to get the required number of credits to complete courses.
EduNav develops student academic planning and optimization software for the US higher education market. Our software is designed to help institutions improve student retention and on-time degree completion while minimizing wasted credit hours and optimizing the education duration. Basically, it’s like Google maps for education: it creates the best individual route for students. It has a special algorithm which takes into account personal circumstances like a part-time job, sports activities or family situation and offers the best education plan which guarantees on-time completion of the study. In 2010 President Obama set an ambitious but widely shared goal: by 2020 the USA should once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. We help universities in their journey to achieve this ambitious goal.
Since more than 31 million students have gone off to college but never earned a degree in the last 20 years it became a national problem. American government spends more than $200 billion on education yearly ($60,000 in subsidies per student in a public college). American taxpayers have to pay $ 1.5 billion for every additional year of a Bachelor student. At such a scale even a single-digit increase in on-time graduation will have a very significant impact on the US budget. In the meantime, a student and their family can save from $15,000 to $ 25,000 if they don’t postpone graduation. This doesn’t even incorporate lost income for not being able to work full-time. Thus, when a student doesn’t get a degree on time, it becomes a serious problem both for a student’s own budget and the budget of the whole country. This is the price Americans pay for a freedom of choice.
Obviously, EduNav is not the only example of a tech solution for a complicated and massive problem. As reported by UNESCO, there will be a shortage of almost 100 million university seats by 2025. This, of course, will create many challenges for governments and universities around the world. EdTech is becoming a hype, and this stimulates emerging new companies that are looking either for a solution of a really pressing problem or becoming a trendsetter in an overfished ocean, or actually both.
According to Navitas Ventures, an annual Global EdTech Landscape research, there are more than 15,000 companies in the education industry that raised more than $50 billion over time. They identified 26 clusters; many of them have significantly expanded during the recent 3-5 years.