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ECOMMERCE: DIGITAL PAYMENT

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November 2021 www.pcr-online.biz

ECOMMERCE: DIGITAL PAYMENT ISSUE #212 November 2021


DECEMBER/JANUARY 22 ISSUE

Remote/Hybrid Working special: How to get involved In the December/January 2022 issue of PCR, which hits desks the first week of January we will be focusing on Remote/Hybrid Working. Feature focuses in this issue will include: THE NEXT STEP IN REMOTE WORKING Industry Opinions and Q&A’s Remote/Hybrid Working, Security Services and requirements for facilitating a mobile workforce from Software Security to Hardware. If you are involved in Cloud based services for storage (Dropbox. Google Cloud) File transfer eg We transfer, Dropbox, Virtual meetings eg Teams, Zoom then we want to hear from you. Remote/hybrid worforce industry roundtable In this issue we will be running an industry roundtable focusing on the remote and hybrid workforce and the next steps in making this working model a long-term proposition. We are interested in hearing your successes in implementing a remote or hybrid workforce and the challenges you have experienced. We are looking for industry comment on the following questions: 1) What next steps should companies be considering to reinforce the hybrid work model to ensure long-term sustainability? 2) If you have implemented a hybrid work model how successful has it been and what have you had to do to make this plausible? 3) How has tech played a key role in your hybrid work model? 4) How have you dealt with costs, such as office space, remote workers equipment etc? Have you seem much impact on cost such as cheaper facility costs or lower staffing costs? 5) Going forward how will you adapt this into your recruitment model? Will it enable you to employ staff from overseas or further afield?

6) Are you having to deal with any employment legislations laws for any over seas workers. If so what and how are you handling this? 7) How have you synronised your remote workforce? 8) Have you needed to embark upon the wider adoption of digitization to make this working model possible? 9) How have you dealt with security across the whole hybrid working model? 10) What were your views towards remote working before and how have your views now changed since the pandemic enforced this new work life? Please could we have 100 word answers per question along with a profile pic of the commentator. Predictions for 2022 or round-up of 2021 If you have any predictions for 2022 or would like to give a round up of how business has been in the channel over the past year then please get in touch EDITORIAL DEADLINE FOR THE DECEMBER/JANUARY ISSUE IS MONDAY 15TH NOVEMBER Sector Guides: Remote Hybrid Working From laptops to peripherals, software and IoT we’ll be featuring the latest in tech for the hybrid/remote workforce. If you’re a vendor or distributor in this arena, get in touch! We will need 100 word product description, quick specs list, high res image of the product, contact details. Deadline for sector guides is 20th November. Company features and commentary Each month we run Q&As with companies in the sector we’re focusing on for that issue. We also always welcome commentary on the industry from experts. If you would like to be considered for any of these features and guides, email Michelle Winny at michelle.winny@biz-media.co.uk by Monday 15th November. For advertising email: sarah.goldhawk@biz-media.co.uk


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Editor Michelle Winny michelle.winny@biz-media.co.uk 0759 529 8729 Graphic Designer Steve Williams swilliams@designandmediasolutions.co.uk

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Printed by Buxton Press Ltd ISSN: 1742-8440 Copyright 2021

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TheEditor W

elcome to PCR’s November issue where we focus on Ecommerce and the future of digital payment. We have some great industry insight starting with our retail analysis with Brightpearl’s CEO, Derek O’Carroll, exploring a trend that every retail business needs to get on board with - and fast - Digital neighbourhoods are forming - and they’re here to stay. Dick Dekkers at Digidentity explores how global access to digital identity is opening international doors. Steve Arlin at ProLion discusses cracking down on crypto addresses. In our Big “Interview Josh Mansell, from Go2Games talks about the company’s long-term commitment to the gaming youth culture and how this goes beyond just games and peripherals, by putting the local community central to its business ethos. Smart Engines’ release of its new secure AI-powered software enables new biometric ID cards and residence documents to be scanned in accordance with international boarder regulations, we find out more. Oscar van den Broek at Nedap Retail discusses the role of RFID in the retail supply chain and its use case towards sustainability. John Kolthof at CCV GmbH explores the evolution in online payment technology – from RFID to Android. Simon Chandler from CryptoVantage explores if Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies are a viable payment solution. Jamie Box from SentryBay discuses how the channel can look to maximise business potential in the smart tech market. In our Life in the channel focus we spoke with CWSI’s CEO, Ronan Murphy, about its £1M investment to support the growth of its business in the UK and how the company is embarking on a new partnership with SentinelOne to extend its capabilities in Endpoint Detection and Response.

Michelle Winny, Editor

michelle.winny@biz-media.co.uk

Editorial: 0759 529 8729 Advertising: 0787 259 4600

THE TEAM

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Michelle Winny

Editor michelle.winny@biz-media.co.uk

Sarah Goldhawk

Advertising sarah.goldhawk@biz-media.co.uk

November 2021 | 3



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November 2021 06 Retail analysis: Shoppers are flocking to a new digital ‘hood. What does this mean for retail? 14 Industry opinions 23 Big interview with Go2Games’ Josh Mansell

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26 Digital identity: New biometric ID cards fortify entry into the EU 30 Top 5 tech: Snapplify’s Wesley Lynch

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34 Inventory management: The RFID platform that enables a sustainable omnichannel 36 Digital payment: The evolution of contactless payments 38 Digital payment: Will retail fully embrace Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as a payment solution? 46 Sector guides: New products to get your hands on 48 Life in the channel: CWSI’s, Ronan Murphy

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PCRmag November 2021 | 5


Retail Analysis

Shoppers Are Flocking to a New Digital ‘Hood. What Does This Mean For Retail? Derek O’Carroll, CEO of Brightpearl explores a trend that every retail business needs to get on board with - and fast - because in the digital neighborhoods of the future, people will ‘show up’ to online stores as an event; not only to browse and buy goods, but also to socialise and be entertained, just as they do in physical stores. Digital neighbourhoods are forming - and they’re here to stay.

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uring the pandemic, much like our working lives and our socialising, retail had to migrate solely online - and with this seismic shift, shopper expectations have skyrocketed. A smooth transaction and quick delivery is no longer a perk for customers - it’s the baseline expectation. Consumers everywhere now seek a rewarding and enjoyable online shopping experience - one to rival, if not replace, the real thing - and this doesn’t look set to change, even as Covid restrictions are lifted. So what does this mean for retail brands?

Welcome to the ‘digital neighbourhood’

The concept of ‘place’ has become meta, and the pandemic has only accelerated this convergence of the digital and physical world. We have work meetings from our own homes, young teens meet on ‘Fortnight’ to socialise after school, and we hang out in digital spaces to watch virtual streamed concerts. 6

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In essence, there are digital neighbourhoods forming - and they’re here to stay. So what’s a digital neighborhood? It’s just like any other neighborhood - but it’s online. It happens when people are brought together via multiple platforms and virtual spaces to explore and form a community. It might sound futuristic, but it’s a trend that every retail business needs to get on board with - and fast - because in the digital neighborhoods of the future, people will ‘show up’ to online stores as an event; not only to browse and buy goods, but also to socialise and be entertained, just as they do in physical stores. If retail brands aren’t plugged into these emerging digital neighborhoods from the start - and if they lack the ability to rapidly and continually evolve as new apps and technology do they risk being locked out. www.pcr-online.biz


Retail Analysis

Making online shopping more immersive

As ecommerce becomes more social and experiential, the range of channels available to both consumers and retailers will expand and diversify. In social media, Youtube, TikTok and Instagram are practically digital cities already; made up of endless influencers and brand ambassadors, integrated shopping options and numerous selling opportunities for brands and business owners. Instagram’s shopping feature now allows users to pay for items in-app, so followers can buy products without stepping away from the conversation. However, despite this cultural evolution for retail, the experience of shopping online is still, in the main, boring - it’s been constructed this way. The intention is to scroll and select with ease, and tools such as Amazon’s auto-replenishment feature mean shoppers don’t even have to remember what they like. But is this what they really want? According to the Future Commerce ‘Vision 2021’ report, 51% of shoppers admit that during the pandemic, they’ve missed the socialising element of going to the shops, and one in four still watch classic shopping channels like QVC. For now at least, that sense of interaction and community is lacking in online retail. The next step is for retailers to diversify their technology to keep up with this consumer appetite for a more immersive shopping experience. Because experience trumps loyalty. If a retailer can’t (or won’t) provide the shopping experience consumers in these new digital neighborhoods crave, consumers will simply find another retailer who can.

Are retailers up to the challenge?

In recent years, retail brands have proven they can successfully evolve in line with consumer expectations as they have added the role of conversational facilitators to what they offer. Today, customers expect their chosen brands to recognise their potential as impactful cultural entities, and use their influence to speak out on important causes. For instance, the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 put the spotlight on brands to champion diversity and inclusivity; not just within the workplace but also in their marketing and product ranges. We saw wide adoption of efforts such as the 15 Percent Pledge, which had retailers such as Sephora, Macy’s and Rent the Runway commit 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses. So brands can successfully evolve to meet consumer expectations. The only difference with embracing digital neighborhoods is that retailers must have the right tech at their fingertips. www.pcr-online.biz

How will you stand out on the street?

For brands that want to stand out on the virtual streets of the digital neighbourhood, it will become essential to have the functionality to make sales through numerous channels. That will lead to greater system complexity and an operational minefield. In this environment, no “One Vendor” can provide the best functionality for all the applications needed for running a modern eCommerce experience. Furthermore, reliance on legacy ERPs is preventing retailers from quickly upgrading and evolving their tech stacks, and, in future, this is going to cause major issues. For example, if your ecommerce business can’t immediately connect to the latest hot sales channel, using TikTok as an example, then consumers will simply go elsewhere. As a result of this shift, companies will require - probably demand - the flexibility to rapidly select, integrate and assemble best in class functionality for specific business requirements, and switch out technologies when they no longer are fit for purpose. We believe this consumer driven change will usher in a new era of Hyper Scalable Commerce, defined by the need to rapidly curate new services and deploy better shopping experiences. But how can brands deliver? The solution is in adopting flexible solutions and open API where brands can curate dynamic and interconnected tech stacks with systems that enable them to quickly integrate a changing roster of best in class tools and applications. This is essential to simply keep pace, let alone differentiate, in an already saturated B2C market and we’ll see more brands building out agile tech stacks through API to keep up with consumers’ demand. November 2021 | 7


Retail Analysis

Exciting - not intimidating

Though a ‘one vendor’ approach may have worked for retail businesses up to now, to overlook the multi-levelled, immersive retail environment of the future risks consumers looking elsewhere, and never coming back. In fact, leading brands are now openly admitting that being locked into a service from an ERP vendor is holding them back. The latest research (July 2021) by Brightpearl has revealed that a whopping 90% of brands with a £5-50 million turnover are concerned that a ‘single vendor’ ERP approach to e-commerce is ‘limiting their ability to quickly deploy better shopping experiences, keep up with customer expectations and sell more’. What’s more, 71% of merchants with a turnover of £5-50 million, and 52% of those bringing in more than $50 million, agree that their current ERP makes it ‘nearly impossible to integrate new, better e-commerce technology from other vendors’ at the pace they would like. With many brands admitting they lack the ability to integrate new, better e-commerce technology from other vendors, new approaches are sorely needed. This new era of commerce requires systems built for scale, agility, and optionality - you can no longer rely on cookiecutter, one-size fits all strategies from a single vendor API adoption will be the way forward for eCommerce brands to develop and nurture their customer experience investment and remain plugged into the evolving digital neighborhood. In fact, Brightpearl’s research reveals that more than half (52%) of companies turning over £5-50 million, along with 41% of those with turnover of more than £50 million, believe the adoption of Application Programming Interface (API) and microservices is ‘much more urgent’ over the next 12 months compared to the previous year. Yes, the upcoming desire for consumers to be able to ‘buy wherever they are’ will unearth operational complexities; but with the right operating system it needn’t be intimidating. For those who are willing to grasp the opportunities that will blossom from digital neighbourhoods, there’s perhaps never been a more exciting time to be in business. A flexible tech stack will ensure you are two steps ahead of the most innovative online merchants, utilising various best in breed systems to support consumer expectations, rather than relying on one vendor to produce standard functionality fit for everyone - which will not be enough. It’s no secret that the retail industry is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic 8

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but while many have struggled or sadly failed, others have thrived. To ensure you land in the latter camp, prepare your business logistically to be an ever-evolving leader within the digital neighbourhood - or risk being locked out altogether.

“Though a ‘one vendor’ approach may have worked for retail businesses up to now, to overlook the multilevelled, immersive retail environment of the future risks consumers looking elsewhere, and never coming back.”

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News

Retailers missing out on £15bn per year due to poor advice in-store

News Body text rands across some of the top retail categories potentially missed out on close to £15bn in in-store revenue in the past year, due to poor in person advice. The finding comes from new research commissioned by, Gekko. The research revealed 1 in 10 shoppers said they had walked out of a shop due to poor advice relating to a considered purchase they were definitely going to make. This equates to some £15bn in revenue overall over the past year. The experiences vary across categories and age groups. Gekko surveyed experiences across several key retail categories including: Consumer electronics, homeware, baby & child, gaming, home improvement, clothing & apparel. Overall 59.8% said they had received ‘excellent or good advice in store’, highlighting the benefit of human interaction and face-to-face sales. However £15bn could be a drop in the ocean of additional revenues that could be accrued with better advice. 37% of shoppers in the consumer electronics category revealed they would be prepared to spend more if they received excellent and knowledgeable in store advice, indicating a golden opportunity for retailers. This compared with 30% of shoppers in the home improvement category and 27% in homeware/home furnishings and 21% in clothing and apparel. According to the survey, 50% of Brits made a ‘considered purchase’ in DIY during the pandemic, more than in any other category. However only 1 in 5 (21%) rated the advice they had as ‘excellent’ in making the purchase. This was compared to 32% for baby and child, 31% for gaming and 24% for consumer electronics. Meanwhile 1 in 4 DIY shoppers (25%) were so disappointed by the advice they

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were put off making an expensive purchase altogether, with 11% pulling the plug on the purchase and walking out of the store. Encouragingly for the future of physical retail, Gen Z are most likely to seek out great advice in store (45%) versus an average of 38% and are more likely to find staff knowledgeable across categories. They are also the most likely out of all ages to appreciate product demos (39%) against a 29% average across all ages. 1 in 2 Gen Z’ers (52%) and 38% of Millennials will spend more for a good experience in store across all categories – crucial for the development of experiential retail. Meanwhile, a conclusive 85% of shoppers are now doing online research before making a considered purchase in-store. 84% of Gen Z, 45-54 and 55-64 categories were even higher at 89% and 90% respectively. Interestingly, 69% said a well synchronised online and offline experience would make them more likely to make a considered purchase.

PPDS and Logitech combine capabilities for Philips professional displays PPDS is using Logitech’s range of video conferencing and audio solutions with Philips-branded corporate and education display ranges. PPDS and Logitech plan to bring integration between a range of collaboration-inspired Philips professional displays for both corporate and education settings and a range of Logitech products. These include the Crestron Connected certified, 10

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Windows or Android powered, UHD Philips C-Line interactive range, and the Crestron Connected, Extron and Neets compatible, Chromecast built-in Philips B-Line range for smaller meeting rooms and huddle spaces. For education, a range of Logitech solutions can now connect with PPDS’ multi-touch, 4K Philips T-Line range for smarter, more engaging in-class and hybrid or blended learning experiences. www.pcr-online.biz


News

Major new education channel programme launched by Consenna for Microsoft and Westcoast CONSENNA has unveiled an entirely new sales enablement and trade-in programme for the education channel, driven by Microsoft and facilitated via Westcoast and a select group of 11 education resellers. “Power Up My School” has been created to provide Microsoft vendors and its channel partners with sales, marketing, and training resources in order to support them in the delivery of strong Microsoft school solutions. Focused on supporting schools to make smart purchasing decisions in their continuing digital transformation journeys, as well as providing them with compelling sustainability messages to help meet CSR and greenhouse gas targets, ‘Power Up My School’ will also assist education resellers in the increasingly important areas of training so that teaching staff gain the best value from their IT devices, as well as cloud enablement. The significance of technology in education was amplified by the shift to remote teaching and learning during the Covid pandemic but it now shows no signs of abating. Investment across both primary and secondary sectors is now focused not only on devices, but training to bring this into the classroom along with the cloud services and associated support required. Paul Hamilton, Westcoast Client Director, said: “The

Zoom releases autogenerated captions ZOOM’S latest feature - auto-generated captions, automatically provide speaker subtitles on Zoom video meetings or webinars. Users can enable the feature via the Zoom web portal. Participants can still privately request that the meeting host enable live transcription during the session using the meeting toolbar. Zoom also supports manual captioning as well as integration with third-party captioning services. Auto-generated captions are currently available in English, with plans to expand them to other languages in the future. www.pcr-online.biz

importance of technology in education is indisputable. But for it to continue delivering the value required of it, it’s vital that schools are equipped with the budgets, knowledge, and skills to fully embrace the solutions available to them. Indeed, BESA figures demonstrate just how vital appropriate training for teaching staff is. Offering everything from award-winning promotions support, through to customisable marketing pages and dedicated sales enablement training from Consenna, Power Up My School also provides a flexible approach to device trade-ins to support the needs of each reseller and their end customers.

ServiceNow acquires Gekkobrain SERVICENOW has acquired Denmark-based Gekkobrain to help customers modernise their systems of record. Gekkobrain’s team developed the ability to identify and understand custom code and business processes that should be modernised, enabling faster migrations, more delightful experiences and cost savings. With Gekkobrain, ServiceNow will extend the power of ServiceNow Creator Workflows, including App Engine, to help organisations identify and understand custom code in their ERP deployments and the business processes they support. Layering on the low-code capabilities of App Engine will help organisations to modernise their ERP systems by identifying, automating, and customising workflows to reduce the risk and cost traditionally associated with ERP software migrations. November 2021 | 11


APPOINTMENTS TransferGo

TransferGo has appointment Povilas Čiuplys as Chief Customer Officer. Previously, Povilas worked in a senior customer service position at TransferGo, and brings over a decade of experience in driving positive customer experiences. Based in Vilnius, Lithuania, Povilas will be responsible for leading TransferGo’s customer support strategy, liaising with its product and marketing teams to ensure that customer experience is always at the heart of service and innovation. Povilas will oversee this team to ensure top standards are upheld and the smooth transition to hybrid working. His appointment provides a dedicated seat within the senior leadership team.

Exclaimer

Exclaimer Group has appointed Marco Costa as CEO, replacing former chief executive Heath Davies. Marco joins Exclaimer from Talkdesk where he served as COO International overseeing all aspects of international operations. During his time at Talkdesk, Marco grew the R&D team from 50 to 1,000 people and helped grow the organisation’s value from $300M to $10B+.

TP-Link

TP-Link has appointment Raj Lama as Business Development Manager to focus on servicing the Public Sector. Lama joins following a career spanning 20 years at ICT solution providers including XMA, Academia and European Electronique. He has been engaged in the Public Sector environment for many years, notably Education and Local Government, working on high profile projects for organisations such as Multi Academy Trust, Further Education Colleges and Councils. His industry experience includes Infrastructure, AV, Managed Print, Client Devices, CCTV, Software Deployment, Managed Services and Professional Services. 12 | November 2021

This month’s movers and shakers in the tech industry...

LED Studio

LED Studio has appointed Larry Zoll as its global director of operations. Zoll, who was previously the managing director of technology and innovation at Sensory Interactive, brings over 10 years of experience working with LED technology and 15 years of project managing large real estate installations.

IoT Inspector

IoT Inspector has appointed Jan C. Wendenburg as CEO. Florian Lukavsky, founder of IoT Inspector will take over as CTO and will focus on the technical development of the IoT security platform. In recent weeks, IoT Inspector has identified numerous security vulnerabilities at wellknown chip manufacturers such as Realtek or Broadcom in hundreds of thousands of devices, generating worldwide attention.

PPDS

PPDS has appointed Vince Schuster as its new Commercial Vice President, Professional Displays North America. Schuster is an AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist, Digital Signage Display Expert, and is certified in Imaging Science Foundation- Commercial with a career spanning more than 25years. Based in the greater Washington, D.C. metro region, and reporting to PPDS General Manager, Chris Colpaert, Vince will oversee the day-to-day management of the business.

www.pcr-online.biz


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industryopinion

Creating a secure digital identity Dick Dekkers, Director of Business Development at Digidentity explores how global access to digital identity opens international doors

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n already shrinking world became even smaller during the pandemic. Before lockdown, global organisations were operating in multiple offices across the planet. However, as remote working became the norm, suddenly entire businesses became completely reliant on digital services to continue functioning. Regardless of location, every member of staff was in the same position - working in a virtual office from home. Employees who had never physically met could have been hundreds of miles apart, yet they may have felt closer than ever before. Global business isn’t the same as it once was. Today, a few people working in a kitchen can take a company into new markets without leaving the room. And much of the ability to sign contracts remotely is down to digital identity. Before the pandemic, important documents had to be signed face-to-face, taking weeks or even months to gather the necessary people into one location - often travelling across borders - all for a signature. It was tedious, difficult and slow. With digital identity services, modern organisations can grow into new markets, expand global partnerships or make significant business-altering decisions without the need to be in the same room. The entire process can be streamlined, straightforward, and most importantly, secure.

A reliable and secure alternative

The use of digital transactions has been growing rapidly for several years, yet the global pandemic has become a catalyst for rapid innovation in the area, both in the public and private sectors. In this age of digital transformation, the ability to prove identity digitally has become more urgent and more valuable. This is particularly stringent in the financial and insurance markets, where secure and reliable digital ID is becoming a key part of the infrastructure, with consumers able to share their data with third party providers smoothly and securely. The growth in digital financial transitions requires a better understanding of how individuals are being identified and verified to ensure secure transactions and prevent financial crime. CIFAS, which is the UK’s leading fraud prevention department, found that of the 223,163 cases of identity theft reported in 2019, almost all of them took place online. This clearly shows there is an ever-growing need to come up with safe ways to store data online. The financial loss and the cost of reclaiming a stolen identity can 14

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be as much as £10,000. Digital ID systems with privacy enhancing technologies and improved security could help to fight against this problem. Digital ID allows proof of identity without sharing unnecessary information, through the use of new privacy enhancing technologies and global laws. Unlike a paper-based ID such as most driver’s licenses and passports, a digital ID can be used remotely over digital channels. Many Digital verification services have built-in privacy provisions such as data minimisation and proportionality, wellcontrolled processes, and robust governance, making the process as safe and reliable as possible. All identity providers and Qualified Trust Service Providers (QTSP) must follow rigorous regulations that uphold international standards for security and data protection. Digital identity services are highly secure and reliable, and all documents provide a readily available paper trail, accessible whenever needed for compliance purposes.

Global expansion

With the complete shutdown of society around the world, businesses adapted to working at home. Even with the reopening of cities across the globe, many businesses have chosen to maintain work from home schemes. This presented some challenges for businesses, and they could no longer meet face-to-face to sign off documents and generate secure verifications. Digital ID has been able to open the world up through the Internet and expand business potential in a time that feels so restrictive. Rather than scheduling and rescheduling meetings to visit someone in-person and verify certain documents face-to-face, users can now submit a document through the cloud. Once verified, the user can be issued with a qualified electronic signature that can be used to sign documents online. The simple act of bringing such an important process digital has meant that more international businesses are now accessible and attainable, especially as organisations are expanding and looking to recover from the pandemic. SMEs can better expand and tap into the global client base, and rural SMEs have the opportunity to access distant business opportunities. Using digital ID verification, a business can expand into new markets, increase their employee workflow, and introduce new customers while lowering the cost of their products and services on an international scale. All of this, through a simple, secure and reliable process of digital identity. www.pcr-online.biz


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industryopinion

Use smarter key management to secure your future anywhere in the cloud Marcella Arthur, Vice President Global Marketing, Unbound Security

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loud computing remains a dominant trend in global business, boosted by the mass shift to remote working during the pandemic. A report from Deloitte highlights how investment in cloud infrastructure increased through 2020 with the scale of mergers and acquisitions indicating significant expectations of further growth. Yet as organisations migrate workloads to the cloud in search of greater agility and innovation and reduced costs, they are facing serious security challenges that conventional approaches fail to meet, particularly if they adopt hybrid approaches. By 2022, analysts IDC estimate more than 90 per cent of enterprises worldwide will be relying on a mix of on-premises/dedicated private clouds, multiple public clouds, and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs. As companies become more distributed and more complex than ever through their entry into the hybrid cloud, they find themselves with massively extended security perimeters while constantly exchanging high volumes of data. Combined with the imposition of stricter demands by regulators, these developments make control of encryption keys used to protect data more important than ever. For those with heavy investments in on-premise infrastructure, hardware security modules (HSMs), or apps partially in the cloud, the inability to secure and manage the cryptographic keys that protect their data across a multitude of scenarios has the potential to bring their organisations to an extremely costly standstill. Whenever IT managers decide on a cloud shift that requires some existing hardware to remain intact, among the problems they face are the time-consuming task of maintaining multiple systems, implementing key management solutions, and the creation of multiple keys depending on the application supported and authentication path. Developers and solution architects take on the biggest migration risk, because the painstaking work that it took to develop an application once, may now have to be repeatedly refactored to ensure that keys work anywhere in the cloud, at any time. For key management, organisations may feel they can rely on the solutions provided by the major cloud service providers (CSPs), who have made encryption simple to activate. Sadly, however, there is a basic security flaw in having the keys held

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by the same entity that holds the data. It is not just penetration by criminals we should worry about in this respect, it is the government warrants and subpoenas that may force CSPs to open up what they hold. Alongside this vulnerability is one of management. It becomes much harder to achieve consistency of data governance across an organisation’s entire and varied infrastructure – including on-premises hardware – when keys are managed by the cloud provider. The way CSPs’ solutions deliver a segmented picture of the key logs and usage reports makes it impossible for enterprises to manage their entire range of keys in one place with full visibility across all sites. Time to market for new and existing applications suffers as they require keys to ensure the requisite security policies are met in each case. Security is potentially compromised when organisations are unable to manage keys across disparate sites because of dependencies on the applications they are looking to authenticate, each having been written to specific cloud requirements. The way out of this tangle is to nail down security with a third-party solution that overrides the complexity of refactoring applications to ensure they work in each cloud environment. Enterprises need to write and manage their own keys on a separate, one-stop platform, using multiparty computation (MPC). MPC splits a secret key into two or more pieces and places them on different servers and devices. Because all the pieces are required to get any information about the key, but are never assembled, hackers have to breach all the servers and devices. Strong separation between these devices (different administrator credentials, environments, and so on), provides a very high level of key protection. Adopting this approach gives enterprises using hybrid cloud or multi-cloud infrastructures the single-pane-of-glass visibility that is essential for security and surveillance, providing information about all keys and digital assets, how they are stored, who is using them and how they are programmed. The use of cloud crypto keys is no longer a leap of faith. When organisations are moving into the cloud for greater innovation and efficiency, an MPC platform provides the most effective means of securing and managing encryption keys, being highly agile, adaptable, and easy to use without any compromise of safety. www.pcr-online.biz



industryopinion

Cybersecurity Is Not A One-Stop-Shop Rob Hancock, Head of Platform at Giacom and Kelvin Murray, Threat Researcher, Webroot, detail the importance of embedding a trilogy security approach into organisations, and this is where a strong CSP/MSP relationship can be invaluable

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OVID-19 has changed the working landscape and with indoor spaces back open, employees are venturing out to new spaces to work, such as coffee shops and Internet cafes. But working on open networks and personal devices creates unlocked gateways for cyberattacks to take place. Since this hybrid and remote way of working looks like it’s here to stay, businesses must ensure they have the right infrastructure in place to combat any cyber threats. For instance, research by the National Cyber Security Centre shows that there has been a rise in COVID-19 related cyber attacks over the past year, with more than one in four UK hacks being related to the pandemic. This trend is not likely to ease up any time soon either. And, going forward, hackers could take advantage of excited travellers waiting to book their next holiday, deploying fake travel websites, for example. Aside from the bad actors in this wider scenario, part of the problem here is that many IT teams are not making use of a holistic and layered approach to security and data recovery; which can lead to damaging consequences as data is stolen from organisations. Such issues continue to resonate strongly across businesses of all sizes, who will, therefore, turn to their MSPs for a solution. Cybersecurity is not a one-stop-shop. A full trilogy of solutions is required to ensure maximum effect. This includes a layered combination of DNS networking, secure endpoint connections, and an educated and empowered human workforce. The need for DNS security cannot be ignored, especially with the rise of remote workforces, in order to monitor and manage Internet access policies, as well as reduce malware. DNS is frequently targeted by bad actors, and so DNS-layer protection is now increasingly regarded as an essential security control – providing an added layer of protection between a user and the Internet by blocking malicious websites and filtering out unwanted material. Similarly, endpoint protection solutions prevent file-based malware, detect and block malicious internal and external activity, and respond to security alerts in real-time. Webroot Business Endpoint Protection, for example, harnesses the power of cloud computing and real-time machine learning to monitor and adapt individual endpoint defences to the unique threats that users face. However, these innovative tools and solutions cannot be implemented without educating users and embedding a cyber security-aware culture throughout the workforce. Humans are often the weakest link in cybersecurity, with 90% of data breaches 18

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occurring due to human error. So, by offering the right training and resources, businesses can help their employees increase their cyber resilience and position themselves strongly on the front line of defence. This combination is crucial to ensure the right digital solutions are in place – as well as increasing workforces’ understanding of the critical role they play in keeping the organisation safe. In turn, these security needs provide various monetisation opportunities for the channel as more businesses require the right blend of technology and education to enable employees to be secure. Businesses, particularly SMBs, will look to MSPs to protect their businesses and help them achieve cyber resilience. This creates a unique and valuable opportunity for MSPs to guide customers through their cybersecurity journeys, providing them with the right tools and data protection solutions to get the most out of their employees’ home working environments in the most secure ways. Just as importantly, MSPs need to take responsibility for educating their own teams and clients. This includes delivering additional training modules around online safety through ongoing security awareness training, as well as endpoint protection and anything else that is required to enhance cyber resilience. Moreover, cyber resilience solutions and packages can be custom-built and personalised to fit the needs of the customer, including endpoint protection, ongoing end-user training, threat intelligence, and backup and recovery. With the right tools in place to grow and automate various services – complemented by technical, organisational and personal support – channel partners will then have the keys to success to develop new revenue streams too. Hackers are more innovative than ever before, and in order to combat increasing threats, businesses need to stay one step ahead. Companies must continue to account for the new realities of remote work and distracted workforces, and they must reinforce to employees that cyber resilience isn’t just the job of IT teams – it’s a responsibility that everyone shares. By taking a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity, businesses can develop a holistic view of their defence strategy, accounting for the multitude of vectors by which modern malware and threats are delivered. Within this evolving cybersecurity landscape, it’s essential for SMBs to find an MSP partner that offers a varied portfolio of security offerings and training, as well as the knowledge and support, to keep their business data, workforces and network secure. www.pcr-online.biz



industryopinion

How technology can make every exchange secure and confidential Emmanuel Addy, CEO, and co-founder of The Money Cloud (TMC) discusses how TMC helps with the process of intelligently selecting the best payment provider to suit its customer’s needs.

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igital transformation has become the talk of the allows small investors and traders to play with higher trading town ever since businesses, around the world, volumes with lower risk as they can use technology to have begun moving their operations online track their investments better, receive timely updates, “One sector of and providing a plethora of virtual services to and even personalised tips to tweak their strategies their audiences. While this shift has occurred as they go along. finance that has unanimously across various industries, it’s most noticeable in the banking and personal finance been greatly impacted by 4. Increased accessibility - With each sectors. This has led to the popularisation of technological advancement in finance, especially the evolution of fintech in the smartphone era, the ability to conduct the term - fintech or financial technology; a marriage between financial services and transactions beyond traditional banking expands are international information technology. While the term has just drastically. We are living in a world where more begun to feel generalised, its origin can actually be people, especially in the African and Asia-Pacific payments.” traced back to the early 1900s. Everything, from the regions, have a smartphone than a bank account. advent of credit cards in the 1950s and NASDAQ in the This has also incentivised banks to move toward 1970s to Bitcoin in 2008, falls under the umbrella of fintech. digitising traditional banking services. Not to mention that One sector of finance that has been greatly impacted by the fin-tech startups, globally, are making forex management and big evolution of fintech are international payments. The main purpose banking tools accessible to individuals, thus bridging the resource of said evolutions was to increase the user’s convenience and, over gap between the general public and financial institutions the last 5 years, that purpose has transformed from convenience to personalization, which has led to a large increase in the number 5. Enhanced customer experience - Fintech startups are focusing of small companies and individuals using FX tools to grow their on providing increasingly personalised services to their wealth. Some of the major benefits of digital transformation are: customers, creating a wholesome banking experience for the user. Services like customised trading tips, AI-backed spending 1. Secure payments - Developments such as polished payment insights, finding the right payment provider, peer-to-peer tracking software and sophisticated authentication systems have transactions, and a revamped customer experience addressing provided an extra layer of security when transferring payments individual problems at a quicker rate are setting the tone for the future of personal banking. By deploying a customer-first from one account to another. The introduction of blockchain technology into the global financial ecosystem has enabled approach in finance, companies are focusing on the individual the use of decentralised ledgers, which protects the personal investor’s needs, forcing big banks to follow suit. information of the users as well. The nucleus of the strategy used by fintech startups around the 2. Rapid and seamless transactions - The introduction of IoT, world is to give back control of their personal finances to the people. coupled with the transaction speed of blockchain-enabled Decreasing our dependence on the established banks to handle payment systems, has allowed SMEs and individuals to our transactions and trading portfolios seems to be the need of the experience quicker payment settlements than traditional hour. High third-party costs and services charges are just some of banking methods. the reasons that have nudged users away from traditional banks and towards a more modern system with greater access to information, 3. Improved analytics and reduced risk - The addition of transparency, and growth. We are also seeing partnerships between machine learning and AI-based trading models automates the small finance banks and startups increase as banking institutions risk analysis of trading algorithms, drastically reducing the begin to realize the benefits of targeted customer engagement, effect of human error and reducing overall trading risk. This also especially in underserved markets. 20

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PCR Awards 2022

We look forward to seeing you at the PCR Awards 2022

It’s never too early to start planning, so to get ahead of the game and to be part of something truly special, the PCR Awards 2022 organised by PCR magazine publisher, BizMedia will be back to honour the incredible companies operating in the UK PC & Tech industry, from distributors and resellers to retailers, vendors and beyond.

To start planning your attendance to the Channel’s biggest industry awards night for 2022 please contact Sarah Goldhawk: sarah.goldhawk@biz-media.co.uk.

We look forward to an evening to remember once again next year. www.pcr-online.biz

November 2021 | 21


industryopinion

Cracking down on crypto addresses just one part of a much bigger problem Steve Arlin, VP Sales, UK, Americas & APAC, ProLion discusses cracking down on crypto addresses.

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the growing ransomware problem. While paying ransoms has n September, the US Treasury announced sanctions on a crypto been rightfully discouraged, it’s also nearly impossible to stop it exchange that it asserts has facilitated ransomware transactions happening. Ransomware groups will always find a way to collect totalling USD$13 million. It believes around 40 per cent of their ransom, whether it’s through a cryptocurrency exchange or via SUEX’s transactions are linked to illicit actors, and that the company a less secure method. has aided the laundering of funds from more than eight ransomware While these sanctions are a positive step from government, merely variants. The newly announced sanctions block US citizens and disrupting the work of cyber criminals isn’t enough to have a lasting companies from transacting on the exchange. impact. Rather than further criminalising the payment process, According to a January 2021 report from blockchain analysis these sanctions should be followed by action to incentivise firm Chainalysis, in 2020 ransomware gangs made at least and promote the implementation of better cybersecurity USD$350 million in ransom payments, which is a 311 In 2020 practises across industries. percent increase on the previous year. Instead, it is important to focus on the elements of Cracking down on crypto exchanges that allow ransomware gangs ransomware that can be controlled such as the risk these transactions is an essential part of reducing the made at least that faces organisations. By investing in the right ransomware threat. However, without further action technology and encouraging good cyber security it will only make future payments less secure rather USD$350 million habits, businesses reduce the likelihood of an attack than stopping them entirely - especially at a time in ransom and the damage that it may cause. when according to a report from Kaspersky, over half Simply shutting down one of the many available of ransomware victims resort to paying the ransom. payments. payment routes will ultimately not stop a ransomware Efforts to curtail the continuous onslaught of victim’s data from being stolen or erased, their systems being ransomware attacks should actually focus on prevention shut down or their business’s reputation being shattered. Even if rather than payment. As the frequency and severity of ransomware payment is stopped, there are no guarantees that attackers won’t attacks shows no sign of easing, sanctioning cryptocurrency try again and certainly no guarantee that your data won’t be erased exchanges will do little to address the growing problem. regardless. Targeting the wrong part of the problem A successful ransomware attack in its simplest form can be split into two parts: a security breach followed by a payment. Addressing the second part of this process is somewhat misguided. In the same way that it’s impossible to stop ransomware attacks from occurring, it is essentially impossible to stop payment completely. Attackers will always find a way that makes it possible for them to collect a ransom. Instead, organisations should take action to limit the damage that attacks can have before payment is even considered. This approach tackles both parts of the problem at the same time. It also means businesses and legislators need to be proactive rather than reactive in their approach and focus on actively monitoring their network to counter opportunistic threats before they inflict too much damage.

The payment debate

In 2021, there has been regular debate on how best to tackle 22

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So, what is the solution?

Although most organisations have end point cyber security, ransomware and malware can still slip through. Even the best anti-virus protection isn’t always able to track internal threats and compromised employees. The focus of action from government needs to be on prevention of the damage an attack can cause by encouraging the implementation of better security measures. Implementing proactive ransomware solutions that protect Central Storage Systems whether in the local data centre, NAS or in the Cloud, allows the possibility of dealing with an attack long before it becomes a transaction on a crypto exchange. The best course of action is to bolster your network’s defences with several layers of protection and with multiple mitigations at each layer. This gives the intended target multiple opportunities to detect attacks and stop them before they have can inflict harmful and long-lasting damage. www.pcr-online.biz


thebiginterview

GO2GAMES’ JOSH MANSELL Josh Mansell, Executive Director at Go2Games tells Michelle Winny, editor of PCR about its long-term commitment to the gaming youth culture and how this goes beyond just games and peripherals, by putting the local community central to its business ethos.

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o2Games.com (G2G) scooped this year’s Gaming Retailer of the year award under the Retailer category at the PCR Awards 2021. Known as a high quality retailer of computer games, consoles and accessories, G2G are committed to providing the latest and greatest titles, as well as a wideranging archive of fully refurbished releases. G2G are focused on the gaming sector in a big way and pride themselves on offering unprecedented and personal customer service powered by its principles of highly competitive pricing, fast and effective service, and a genuine love for gaming on all platforms. The company’s relationships with distributors and publishers allow it to be a marketleading specialist in getting the right games to gamers at the best possible prices. Go2Games goes beyond just offering the latest gaming stuff and works in close collaboration with Legacy Youth Zone and the DWP and others, young people are extremely engaged with its subject matter of video games as an operating business, which allows for various multimedia and ecommerce work experiences, internships, and apprenticeships. The company is also proving its ability consistently to create outcomes that allow for better chances of employment and employment opportunities within the borough. This will be boosted with its digital skills programmes. Michelle Winny, Editor or PCR spoke with Josh Mansell, Executive Director at Go2Games to find out more. www.pcr-online.biz

Please could you tell us a bit more about who you are collaborating with and why?

Since 2012, Go2Games.com has run as an online videogames retailer, with community at the heart of our actions and guiding our collaborations. Our biggest collaborators are Onside Youth Legacy, Croydon College, London Learning consortium, and the charity Digilearning. We feel these collaborators share our goals and love for community.

Please could you explain a bit more about the work you are undertaking with young people and the benefits this brings?

As 2022 draws near, we have established big goals to make a difference in Croydon’s employability. Levels Learning is a collaborative redevelopment project in partnership with the Croydon Clocktower and Central Library. The Digital Skills school will offer a range of courses at different lengths and levels of accreditation for all ages, centred around the engaging industry of video games. Additionally, a Levels Hub will offer work opportunities to put the courses learned into practice. 75% of jobs will require advanced digital skills by 2030, highlighting the importance of teaching and improving these necessary skills. This will help us change not just statistics but the lives of some of the 18,000+ people on Universal Credit, as of Sep 21 in Croydon. If you are interested in supporting this cause, we have sponsorship options available, and we are easy to reach through email: josh@go2games.com. November 2021 | 23


thebiginterview “Levels Learning is a collaborative redevelopment project in partnership with the Croydon Clocktower and Central Library. The Digital Skills school will offer a range of courses at different lengths and levels of accreditation for all ages, centred around the engaging industry of video games. Additionally, a Levels Hub will offer work opportunities to put the courses learned into practice.”

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Please could you tell us a bit more about the larger-scale project for the borough of culture 2023 you are working on?

Our involvement with the successful Croydon bid will be providing digital skills bootcamps with specific training, such as green screen editing.

How are you working with young people to find employment?

We are working with London Learning consortium to provide Kickstarter positions, traineeships, and work experience. We’ve worked with 9 apprentices from Croydon college, and we currently have 30 Kickstarters working with us. 7 of them have secured full-time employment. We also run CV/LinkedIn and Interview training workshops with staff.

Please could you explain a bit more about your involvement in digital learning and skills development?

Working with Digilearn, we created resources and courses that cover a broad range of digital skills. Levels Learning will offer a range of bespoke digital skills courses with videogames as the USP, ranging from 1 day to 4 weeks.

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thebiginterview How does the company get involved with the local community?

As Gold Supporters of Onside Youth Zone Legacy in Selhurst, we have donated gaming consoles and run regular e-sports tournaments. Most recently, we brought 8 youth clubs together from different Croydon postcodes through the power of video games. We have provided console donations to youth clubs and raised money through a charity raffle for the St. Vincent Volcano Crisis.

Please could you explain a bit more about your involvement with Croydon College to put on a multi-faculty cultural event run by students based on gaming and popular culture? Croydon College offers a range of courses. Each has different aspects that would provide a vital practical piece of a major scale cultural event, such as a borough-wide e-sports and pop culture event—run by young people for young people.

Please could you tell us a bit more about your partnership with the LSBU? LSBU Croydon is a fantastic new arrival to the area. We were involved with the events providing the production, digital skills workshops, alongside the Futurescapes event. Moving forward, we will be part of the digital skills course being offered to students, specifically the module covering digitisation with SME’s.

“Working with Digilearn, we created resources and courses that cover a broad range of digital skills. Levels Learning will offer a range of bespoke digital skills courses with videogames as the USP, ranging from 1 day to 4 weeks.” Please tell us a bit more about your CV and Interview skill workshops and ongoing partnership with the Bigger Pie and how this is encouraging more female entrepreneurs into the tech space in careers such as blockchain? Interviewing young people through the Kickstarter scheme demonstrated the range of CVs and interview skills held by applicants. Designing a CV, LinkedIn, and interview bootcamp was a quick win to improving chances of employability. We work with a motto of ‘All can achieve’, providing female role models in crypto along with Bigger Pie. We understand the importance of representation and are focusing on supporting the talented and pioneering #womeninblockchain.

Please tell us a bit more about your agreement to launch larger-scale events with the Bigger Pie through the LSBU to accelerate young people into the tech industry?

Regular events, workshops, and courses will provide the guidance and knowledge required to get young people into the tech industry, with us running the course of digitisation of SME’s with LSBU.

I understand you were nominated for MultiAwards at the Croydon Awards for your work within the borough and the UK during the pandemic, such as furnishing primary schools with data safe fully refurbished devices during lockdowns? Please could you explain a bit more about your involvement with this and why it’s important to the company?

During the pandemic, we ran a laptop appeal, #keepcroydonconnected, that gathered digital devices for the most vulnerable. This allowed students without laptops access to devices necessary for continuing learning remotely. Community is central to our business ethos, so ensuring students can continue learning and communicating was a no-brainer for us to get started! www.pcr-online.biz

November 2021 | 25


Biometrics

New biometric ID cards fortify entry into the EU Smart Engines’ release of new secure AI-powered software is able to scan new biometric ID cards and residence documents of EU citizens as well as new Schengen visas in accordance with the Regulation (EU) 2019/1157 which came into force in August 2021. Michelle Winny spoke with Vladimir Arlazarov, CEO of Smart Engines, Ph.D. to find out more.

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mart Engines is a science company with a focus on AI-related R&D at the forefront of document recognition, image processing, technical vision, machine learning, graph theory and optimisation. Here’s what Vladimir Arlazarov, CEO of Smart Engines, Ph.D. told PCR.

Please could you explain a bit more about Smart Engines deliverance of OCR to new EU electronic ID cards, what does this offer?

Imagine you are in the middle of a queue, heading to an important meeting you can’t be late to, trying to scan your ID so you could get in - and it just doesn’t work. This has happened to most of us, but this wouldn’t happen at all if every terminal or every place/ bank/service which required personal verification would have had installed Smart Engines software. Our software works to reduce friction for the end user because we teach our Artificial Intelligence according to standards: we carefully studied the new ID format and designed our AI-based OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to always understand this new format. The Smart ID Engine scans and recognises EU ID cards independently from environmental conditions like capture angles and lighting and ensures personal data privacy and security for EU citizens. 26

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The fact that the new EU electronic ID cards have changed in visual appearance and additional visual security features have been introduced allows us to apply our document template analysis technologies besides text OCR. It is not enough to simply recognise all text fields - our solutions specifically search for the ID cards as they should visually appear, and allow us to control visual security features. This control almost eliminates the possibility of identity theft in case someone tries to use a scan of your ID, for example: the fact that our AI-based OCR understands the authenticity of your ID will significantly complicate the possibility of using your stolen data in the event this happens.

Please could you explain a bit more about Smart Engine’s new secure AI-powered software and how it provides accurate and fast scanning of new electronic ID cards of EU member states?

Our AI-powered software processes ID document images and recognises them without any data leaving the client’s infrastructure. The main feature of our solutions is that the recognition of ID images must be autonomous. When it comes to personal data, especially biometric ID data, it is in our policy that there must be no compromises. If the process requires www.pcr-online.biz


Biometrics

sending of any sensitive data through Internet channels (however secure) to third-party services or servers (however reliable), such processes must always be taken with a grain of salt and undergo tight scrutiny. Solutions delivered by Smart Engines are always deployed on the client premises, or even on the end-user devices, to ensure maximum security. We want to note once again that our software does NOT transfer EU citizens’ data to third-party services and/or third parties for manual processing, does NOT save or store it - the scanning process is performed in the local RAM of the device, and it does NOT require Internet access.

How does this solution address the need to strengthen ID security?

Modern ID documents employ many different technologies, which help to improve their security, as well as facilitate identification processes. For example, machine-readable zone (MRZ) in international passports and travel documents (including most European IDs) was introduced to standardise the way document issuers encode critical information and facilitate its automated entry by specialised hardware. This process is continued with the addition of QR codes and embedded chips. A sophisticated AI-based ID document analysis system (such as Smart ID Engine) can take advantage of these document features: critical data fields which are present in the visual inspection zone (VIZ) and which we recognise with our GreenOCR technology, can be cross-verified with the corresponding fields in the MRZ. The data encoded in QR codes can also be used to verify the information written in the VIZ, but with an additional property of error correction which is used in some QR-codes and www.pcr-online.biz

other matrix barcodes. All this helps to achieve multiple goals at once: make the personal data more secure; decrease the possibility of fraud; and increase the reliability of AI-based analysis. Embedded chips add an additional security layer - they typically encode another copy of personal data, as well as specific biometric details such as high-resolution photo and fingerprint. To scan these you need additional hardware besides the camera (an antenna to read the chip), but it is not enough - to decode the information you need to supply access codes, which can be computed after reading the document (specific RFID code in the visual inspection zone, or fields of the MRZ). This is enforced by the manufacturers of ID documents to prevent illicit scanning. Thus, to access the biometric chip a preliminary analysis of the data written on an ID document is still required. All this boils down to a single main point: the more secure the government-issued ID document is, the more security measures it features, the more value our solutions can bring to the customers. Additional levels of security, which are checked by our AI mean fewer errors and higher reliability, without compromising data privacy.

Please explain how Smart Engines OCR understands new ID template types?

We developed new Deep Visual Memory technology that boosts the localisation and identification of IDs while scanning in a video stream and in photos. This feature is a crucial tool in Smart ID Engine for eliminating manual and time-consuming tasks in ID verification, user onboarding and check-in processes. Deep Visual Memory is a special AI-based stack of algorithms, one of the latest achievements of Smart Engines scientists in the field of computational geometry and machine learning. The main technology task is to quickly detect the document location, as well as to reduce the number of false system operations during the determination of the ID type. With the new feature, Smart Engines AI-powered solutions instantly extract data from more than 1810 IDs from over 210 territories worldwide.

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Biometrics

How does the AI-driven Smart ID Engine extend the number of supported documents?

“Smart Engines main goal is to be completely secure and safe for the end user and the business. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the same approach to security of users, thus making data leakage the everyday reality of each one of us.”

It happens naturally with new documents’ release. When it comes to new IDs, for instance, we carefully study them, and later on test them: there is the whole process of introducing new templates to our Smart ID Engine, because every new document has to go through the entire development cycle. Governments usually release ID templates (with generated synthetic data) with technical specifications, and we can move on from there - for our technology it’s quite enough to start understanding it. Our methods of machine learning allow us to use only synthetic data following the idea of responsible artificial intelligence in the core of our product. Being responsible means being environmentally friendly, hence “Green’’ in our GreenOCR technology. We are constantly adding new identity document types to the system, as well as new templates for those IDs we already support. Thus, our product’s functionality is always up-to-date with our client’s requirements.

Please could you tell us a bit more about the current need for greater personal security and what end users should be considering in order to safeguard their clients identity?

Smart Engines main goal is to be completely secure and safe for the end user and the business. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the same approach to security of users, thus making data leakage the everyday reality of each one of us. When you give your consent to a bank to use your data, you expect a bank to take care of it - as in, use it inside their database. Banks with advanced IT-departments don’t let their clients’ info go outside, but some use the so-called cloud services to identify and scan documents as they usually have to work with millions of them. These services don’t have the tech to identify documents, they either

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use real people to identify them, or try to equip themselves with technology like ours. Imagine this distribution scheme: your data → banks → third parties → people who recognise documents manually. Those who give away their users’ data should think twice: the consequences of the data breach for a bank will be extremely painful both economically and socially. Our products have been designed to meet Green AI principles and are aimed to provide a higher level of privacy protection and security for users and businesses against document fraud.

What threats or challenges does the current scope of personal security face and how can this be addressed?

To convey our thought process on the subject let’s take a look at the food industry. We, as a civil society, made food companies comply with health protocols so now each and every product must be properly labeled with updated nutrition information to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices. The governments have to regulate the process now and make food and beverage companies follow rules and standards. The same approach should apply to personal data. When it comes to protecting it, we are at a critical juncture. We give away deep data (big data that is of high quality, relevant, and actionable) without asking where it goes, why and how it influences our future. Once any bank asks your consent to use your data, no matter its agenda, it is necessary to demand disclosure of the entire chain of channels this data will be used at. On the one hand, users are put in an impossible place here: they will not receive the service if they do not sign a user agreement. On the other hand, changing the approach towards personal data at the legislative level is the main goal of every person as it is in the field of civic control. Even though banks know how to protect data - because they’ve learned how to protect money - cloud services are not very good at it. There is a need to define and reinforce responsibility for the leakage of personal data of all of those involved. If we take into consideration how the GDPR law is being implemented now, then it becomes obvious that fines for data leaks do not scare companies much and certainly cannot ruin their business even though administrative fines for violation of personal data law requirements were substantially increased. Given the increasingly prevalent technologies which rely not only on personal data but on the biometric data as well, we need to get companies to disclose the entire personal data distribution scheme the same way we forced food companies to list ingredients on every product. www.pcr-online.biz



Top 5 Tech Snapplify’s Wesley Lynch

Wesley Lynch, CEO of Snapplify shares his top five pieces of tech that he thinks are rather cool.

ZX SPECTRUM

First of all, a piece of technology that holds a special place in my heart is the ZX Spectrum. This was my first computer – I got it when I was only six. This really sparked my love for tech and I’ve still got it somewhere. I can’t seem to part ways with it. As you couldn’t access many games, you had to type in the programs and make the games yourself. This is really what started my interest in programming – there’s no doubt about that.

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Top 5 Tech

MOBILE SMART SWITCHES I love mobile smart switches. These can connect to your WiFi or with your Google Home or Amazon Alexa. There are so many places you can use them. I’ve got one of these switches wired into my pool pump. I’ve even used them on my Christmas tree lights! They’re transferable, effective, cheap and easy to use. My wife keeps telling me to stop rewiring everything in our house, but they’re cool, and everyone should use them.

VIRTUAL ASSISTANT Definitely next on my list of tech would be Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. For me, the big thing is the voice control function, especially when it comes to playing music. This makes it so much easier. We’ve always got music playing around the house, which is really important to me and is something that my children have grown up with. For our home, this is a real game-changer.

XBOX AND THE XBOX GAME PASS

I’m sure a lot of people would agree with me here, that the Xbox and the Xbox Game Pass is an incredible technology offering. The value for money is unbelievable. I have always loved the Xbox systems, and each upgrade always seems to bring something new to the table. There is such a wide range of the best and latest games for the whole family – for me, for my wife, for the kids, young and old. Minecraft is also big in our world and so this will always be a favourite for me.

AKAI MPK MINI MK3

Finally, the Akai MPK Mini MK3 is a great piece of tech. As you can probably tell, I really love my music. All the music equipment I own is old school, like my Marshall amp. But when it comes to the newer music tech out there, these keyboard controllers are seriously cool. You can pretty much do anything on here to create music virtually. In the same way that people want a good camera to be compatible with a computer, on the sound side, the quality and price of this midi controller makes this a big deal.

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November 2021 | 31


Number

Here are some of the most interesting stats and facts from the tech channel…

CRUNCHING Only a third of telcos have a clear strategy for 5G, despite an overwhelming majority recognising the transformative potential of the technology for the sector, reveals new research released by NTT DATA UK and teknowlogy Group. The study found, whilst 94% of telcos believe 5G will transform the sector, only 35% have a clear strategy in place. With the technology set to play an increasingly vital role across all industries and timelines narrowing, more aggressive transformation roadmaps are required to make the most of 5G.

53%

35%

53% of global companies have a false sense of security when it comes to supply chain attacks found a report by Acronis. Despite the globally recognised attacks on trusted software vendors, like Kaseya or SolarWinds, over half of IT leaders believe that using “known, trusted software” is sufficient protection – making them an easy target.

Three out of 10 companies report facing a cyberattack at least once a day – similar to last year; but this year, only 20% of companies reported not getting attacked – a drop from 32% in 2020, meaning that the attacks are increasing in volume. Breach data received over 13,200 views in 2021 vs. 1,100 views in 2015 - a 1,100% increase, found new research by Bitglass that shows how the Dark Web, the value of stolen data and cybercriminal behaviours have dramatically evolved in recent years.

20%

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$13 million

The US treasury announced sanctions on the SUEX crypto exchange that it asserts has facilitated ransomware transactions totalling $13 million. It believes around 40 per cent of SUEX’s transactions are linked to illicit actors, while the company has aided the laundering of funds from more than eight ransomware variants. The newly announced sanctions block US citizens and companies from transacting with the group. While cracking down on crypto exchanges that allow these transactions is an essential part of the process, without further action it will only make these payments less secure rather than stopping them. Especially at a time when according to a report from Kaspersky, over half of victims resort to paying the ransom.

Onfido has reported a 93% increase yearto-date (YTD) in global revenue and 100% growth in annually recurring revenue (ARR). The company also acquired biometric specialist, EYN whose acoustic liveness technology will be incorporated into Onfido’s Real Identity Platform with its employees joining Onfido’s research and biometrics teams.

93%

Six in 10 Gen Zs will do their Black Friday and Christmas shopping using ‘alternative’ methods such as Pinterest, TikTok and Alexa this year, according to a report by Brightpearl. More than half (57 per cent), of 18- to 24-yearolds, have turned to non-traditional ways of spending over the last year - and this is likely to continue into the festive period and beyond. A study of 2,000 adults revealed WhatsApp (41 per cent) is the platform they expect to rely on most for their shopping. But Facebook (32 per cent), voice assistants like Alexa (31 per cent), TikTok (16 per cent), and Pinterest (17 per cent) will also be popular – as will livestream shopping via retailer websites (19 per cent). And the trend isn’t limited to younger adults – many over-35s intend to use similar ways of spending during their Christmas and Black Friday sprees too - 25 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. Four in 10 prefer new social buying channels and livestream as they combine entertainment and shopping - much like traditional malls do.

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Inventory Management

The RFID platform that enables

a sustainable omnichannel

Oscar van den Broek, Managing Director at Nedap Retail discusses how to generate a completely transparent supply chain and seamless customer experience using the latest RFID technology.

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etailers have historically prioritised building efficient supply chains to meet increasing customer expectations of on-demand, convenient fulfillment. However, the environmental impact of these demands such as short product life cycles and excess stock is no longer viable or accepted by consumers. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the far-reaching implications of how they shop, consume, and dispose of everyday items and are making steps to rectify their habits in a bid to become more sustainable. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that shoppers have become more environmentally and socially conscious. This has led to a surge in awareness of both social and sustainability issues within the

retail industry, and is driving brand choice and a rise in conscious consumerism. With expectations changing, these new requirements have put significant pressure on transparent fulfillment and inventory accuracy and retailers themselves to provide visibility across the supply chain. While Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID) is by no means new, the disruption of the pandemic and growing concerns around the sustainability of operations has led to its use picking up momentum in the retail space, with a recent study revealing that 46% of brands have focused more on RFID in response to the challenges faced during COVID-19. The need for sustainability from consumers is now much more prevalent, with shoppers seeking a greater awareness of the provenance of their goods and insight of their supply chains. They want to know where the products they purchase have been before they reach them and get confirmation that they are not negatively impacting the environment. This is where RFID can play a huge part in achieving and exceeding sustainability expectations. In the past, RFID solutions have generally been sought after for their ability to improve inventory accuracy. Yet retailers are now also understanding their place in monitoring and improving sustainability practices using RFID’s tracking capabilities.

The Problem

Supply chain visibility is more important than ever. Whether inventory is in a distribution center, a physical store or on the move, businesses cannot make fulfillment promises to their customers without an accurate view of their inventory. Having silos of inventory or multiple inventory sources means that they often have 34

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Inventory Management

stock that meets their customer’s needs and timing, but they just can’t see or access it. Because of this, in many cases the sale is then lost. To counter this, retailers resort to carrying too much safety stock. Unfortunately, this leads to aggravated customers, giving away margin due to markdowns and an unnecessary environmental impact as much of the unsold stock is sent to landfill. This environmental and financial waste caused by overstocking was previously seen as necessary as it allowed retailers to meet customer needs. However, the “just in case’ approach may effectively fulfill customer orders but is unsustainable in the long run, both from a business perspective and for the environment. The entire supply chain has been mobilised to seamlessly service rising demand while striving to keep logistics costs down and meet customer expectations. However, this focus on meeting the constant peaks in demand and managing disruption means that businesses are struggling to strike a balance between meeting consumer demand and ensuring they are carrying out sustainable practices. To strike a balance, retailers need to evaluate their supply chain management in order to meet fast-growing expectations among consumers while also operating effectively and sustainably.

The Solution

The best way to solve this is by tracking every unique item’s movement throughout the supply chain and collecting data in a cloud-based inventory repository. Whether it’s in-store, a distribution center or through loss prevention efforts. This enables businesses to keep track of every single item using RFID technology, from the moment it leaves the production factory to the exact moment the item gets shipped, sold or returned. Through the breakdown of inventory silos, businesses can create a single view of stock across their entire supply chain, and have items move between stores, distribution centers and e-commerce without losing sight of a single item. This enables perfectly matched demand and supply anywhere and at any time. The wide adoption of RFID is driven by the need for increased inventory accuracy, ensuring it can minimise environmental and financial waste by reducing safety stocks. Inventory visibility and accuracy allows retailers to lessen their total stock holding while still selling more, allocate products to stores which need them and lower safety thresholds. Lowering safety thresholds increases digital merchandise availability and gives the product more chances to sell. While the industry-wide challenge of inventory excess is widely known, few know the best course of action to solve it as there are a number of reasons the excess can occur. Some of the key contributing factors include lack of visibility into what is present in stores, wanting to have the right product readily available to customers and insufficient retail store processes. Luckily, RFID can and does help retailers achieve this. RFID and inventory visibility can also unlock www.pcr-online.biz

additional insights from a consumer’s perspective, such as allowing them to check a product’s provenance.

The Platform

Perfect inventory visibility, zero waste and no losses. With that vision in mind, Nedap developed the iD Cloud platform, an integrated suite of SaaS solutions, purposefully built for RFID technology. Nedap’s iD Cloud Platform’s foundation is an EPCIS repository, which is based on industry Standards. This makes the iD Cloud integration layer between existing IT systems such as ERP, POS, WMS, OMS and RFID technology. With this in place, there is no need to replace or change existing IT infrastructure, add any new infrastructure or change current systems. iD Cloud is a scalable enterprise platform that gathers all EPC inventory data into one place to create perfect inventory visibility with the use of RFID technology. The iD Cloud also provides a single, real-time view of a businesses inventory, which allows brands to scale their businesses, increase sales and boost customer happiness without waste and losses or a large environmental impact. The iD Cloud platform continues to evolve, based on input from Nedap’s active global user community. Retailers and brands, together with Nedap, decide what the roadmap looks like for the platform. The multi-tenant foundation of iD Cloud enables Nedap to quickly scale the platform and capacity to any size, location or need. That’s why Nedap developed four specialised solutions on top of the iD Cloud platform that allow customers to extend use cases and easily scale with their needs and ambitions. Whether businesses would like to start in their stores, DCs or through Loss Prevention efforts. With the past 18 months opening the eyes of the industry to challenges and expectations that can occur overnight, technology has now progressed at a faster pace. With the environment and new demands at its heart, the iD Cloud Platform out-performs what retailers thought they knew about RFID, and pushes the boundaries on retail technology whilst improving sustainability and paving the way for an exciting and progressive future. November 2021 | 35


Digital payment

The Evolution of Contactless Payments

John Kolthof, Chief Commercial Officer at CCV GmbH explores the evolution in online payment technology – from RFID to Android

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or some in the payments industry, talking about “life after contactless” might seem a little presumptuous given that Juniper Research has estimated contactless payments will reach $2.7 trillion in 2021. We have come a long way in payments technology since the first electronic card machine from Visa in 1979, but the last 18 months has seen a dramatic increase in the use of contactless, which is here to stay. Indeed, as the recent “State of Contactless Payments 2021 Report” states, contactless payments are an asset to retailers with 57% of respondents saying they will choose where to shop based on the availability of contactless checkout. Elsewhere, the National Retail Federation issued a stark warning in its research with 97% of respondents saying they did not complete a purchase because of a lack of convenience to complete the transaction. The challenge for merchants is knowing which of the many technologies and methods of payment for contactless are worth investing in. Juniper’s research suggests that card payments will retain the “majority share” of payments this year, but the pace of technology change is significant. Consumers are demanding ever more choice and convenience when it comes to payment, so merchants must move quickly to avoid being left behind. Technologies such as QR codes

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and Near Field Communications (NFC) may need to operate alongside embedded payment systems and mobile wallets. Non-fungible tokens (NFT) and Bitcoin are even being talked about as a viable payment method, while the growth in e-commerce via speech should not be underestimated – one estimate from Business Insider Research suggests conversational payments will be adopted by 77.9 million users by 2022.

New terminal generation – Android on the rise

In this ever-changing world of payment innovations, it is clear that one underlying technology is on the rise: Android. Android is enhancing processes at the point of sale in ways that were previously not possible on classic payment terminals, because security regulations and certifications did not allow installations beyond pure payment functions. We have already become accustomed to a world of apps, which accompany, enrich, and also facilitate our lives. Their potential in the payments sector is significant, as they will enable new levels of convenience for consumers and help retailers to enrich the service they offer to customers. The new generation of payment terminals working with an Android operating system already benefits from excellent battery management and highly efficient performance, thanks to constant updates www.pcr-online.biz


Digital payment

available through smartphone platforms. More importantly though, merchants and service providers can start to experiment with installing their own apps on a payment terminal. Prices, new products or services can be transferred to the POS in real time, which could have a significant impact on how consumers shop. Retailers have the opportunity to optimise their checkout peripherals quickly and on-demand using apps without investing in additional hardware. Trial versions of app-based POS systems, for example, can be used to experiment to identify the right application and increase user familiarity without incurring significant implementation costs. New business models or - as was the case during the Covid-19 pandemic - new requirements can be quickly integrated into Android-based apps, such as switching on a delivery service or linking a traditional bricks and mortar business to an ecommerce platform. Payment technology must evolve to support a different customer journey.

or ticketing), which have been static up to now, are becoming more dynamic and increasing customer loyalty. On state-of-theart devices, prices can be configured on an hourly basis and interactive service apps can be activated via camera, to name just a few of the functions. Whatever technology and payment services are adopted, the end goal for merchants must be seamless payment and services at the point of sale. This will create a comprehensively convenient shopping experience that does not stop at the checkout zone. Clearly, there are still concerns among consumers about contactless payments such as security and data protection, systems malfunctioning and a lack of understanding of the technology. However, the value that Android technology offers is that developers are already comfortable using it and it has been widely adopted across many mobile devices, which means there are standards and governance models that make its implementation more reliable. And for many consumers it also is very recognisable and easy-to-use. So, while contactless will clearly be around for many years to come, Android offers a technology framework that could see payments evolving from simply being a transaction to becoming a central mechanism for managing customer relationships, engendering loyalty and spotting new trends. To remain competitive, retailers must recognise that how customers pay for products or services has the potential to be far more than a transaction, and they will need to gain more understanding technologies such as Android. This can appear daunting but those who understand that a payment terminal is a source of insight and intelligence will gain a significant advantage over those who do not adapt.

“The challenge for merchants is knowing which of the many technologies and methods of payment for contactless are worth investing in.”

Why is it important to have such an agile technology underpinning your retail payment environment?

Because the classic customer journey has changed, as has our understanding of convenience. According to the Worldpay Global Payments Report, in China almost half of in-store purchases are made via a mobile phone compared 25% in Germany and 24% in the US. That percentage is only going to increase as the technology improves and smart retailers will recognise the significant opportunities this presents. Consumers will no longer go to the supermarket just to do their weekly shopping. They may also go to refuel their electric or hybrid vehicle. Cashless payment at the charging station and at the checkout in the supermarket should be identical in type and convenience and optimally interlinked: one hour of refuelling includes a free coffee to go, or a free electricity charge for the duration of the purchase. This modern type of cross-selling must be supported by modern payment systems and combined in the background for the retailer or operator into homogeneous systems that can be integrated quickly - an easy exercise using Android-based management tools. In the selfservice sector, payment terminals with Android technology herald a significant milestone in the evolution of retail. Even sales at vending machines (vending, parking, public transport www.pcr-online.biz

November 2021 | 37


Digital payment

Will Retail Fully Embrace Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies as a Payment Solution? Simon Chandler, CryptoVantage explores if Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies are a viable payment solution.

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ryptocurrencies have been making plenty of headlines in recent months, but often for the wrong reasons. Ransomware attacks involving bitcoin have turned into an international epidemic, while a litany of public figures - from the FCA and Andrew Bailey to Donald Trump - have been warning of the various threats posed by crypto. However, amidst all the noise, hype and confusion, cryptocurrency has been making steady headway in its pursuit of wider adoption. Most notably, PayPal rolled out its cryptocurrency checkout service at the end of March, allowing its USbased customers to use bitcoin, bitcoin cash, litecoin or ethereum to pay for goods and services from millions of merchants worldwide. This was a massive coup for the cryptocurrency industry, yet the fact remains that few other major payment firms have launched similar payment services. At the same time, PayPal’s service is arguably only a half-step towards the widespread use of cryptocurrencies for payments, since the virtual currencies users send to ‘pay’ for goods are actually (sold and) converted into US dollars by PayPal before ever reaching merchants. This avoidance of actually paying merchants directly with cryptocurrencies raises an important question: will retail ever fully embrace bitcoin or any other

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cryptocurrency as a payment solution? In the shortand medium-term, this still seems unlikely, since the speculative nature of cryptocurrencies means retailers will remain scared of their volatility, while holders will be reluctant to spend their bitcoin or ethereum (or whatever else), for fear of missing out on future gains.

Gradual, Cautious Adoption

Looking solely at the PayPal approach to cryptocurrency payments (i.e. one involving conversion into fiat currency at checkout), the current situation is fairly encouraging for the crypto industry. For example, Trading platform Bakkt launched a digital wallet app in March letting users spend bitcoin at outlets with which it had signed partnerships, including Starbucks, Best Buy, Fiserv, Choice Hotels, and GolfNow. Payment processor BitPay celebrated its 10th anniversary in June, having processed over $5 billion in transactions worldwide for such clients as Microsoft, AT&T, Newegg, WeWork and Camping World. Meanwhile, numerous cryptocurrency platforms (e.g. Binance, Crypto.com, BitPay) have launched debit cards in conjunction with either Mastercard or Visa, enabling holders to fund purchases using their crypto. This effectively means that holders can use bitcoin to pay any Visa- or Mastercard-connected retailer in the world. www.pcr-online.biz


Digital payment

It’s arguable that such forays are less about retailers actually embracing crypto, and more about trading and payment firms tapping the growing pool of cryptocurrency holdings in order to siphon off some of the value of this pool for themselves. Such firms are simply facilitating a service whereby holders are encouraged to sell their cryptocurrency for dollars, euros or pounds, which are then passed onto retailers (who don’t want to assume the risk of holding bitcoin or any other digital asset). These firms then keep the transaction fees involved for themselves. This criticism aside, the scant data that’s available suggests there’s at least some appetite among some retailers to directly accept bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Back in 2018, US payments company Square conducted a survey of 100 of its merchant customers, finding that 60% of them would be prepared to accept bitcoin itself. Sadly, such an ostensibly positive survey hasn’t been followed up by Square or any other major corporation in recent years, while Square’s own cryptocurrency payment offering converts to US dollars upon sale. Nonetheless, a very modest trickle of companies have begun directly accepting bitcoin over the years. This includes Tesla (now rescinded), retailer Overstock, and online travel agency Travala, while online marketplace Etsy enables its sellers to directly accept the cryptocurrency. It’s also not too hard to find smaller retailers and businesses, which have recently announced acceptance of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, from cocktail bars in Kent to clothing stores in Cincinnati and healthcare firms in Miami. www.pcr-online.biz

Such retailers haven’t disclosed the extent to which customers actually pay with bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, so it’s hard to say whether other businesses will be forced to copy them. However, research published by BitPay in 2020 claims that having cryptocurrency as a payment option can attract new clients, with 40% of customers that use crypto to pay merchants via BitPay being new to said merchants. As such, we might potentially expect that, once a certain threshold of market penetration has been reached, cryptocurrency could become more widespread as a payment option. This could be only a matter of time, given the extent to which cryptocurrency has already established itself with younger generations. In a survey of 24,000 UK students conducted by UNiDAYS, 43% responded that retailers should have cryptocurrency as a payment option. This percentage could likely rise the more cryptocurrency embeds itself in popular culture, and the higher it does rise, the more retailers will be compelled to listen. Of course, expect the vast majority of them to take the PayPal route of having cryptocurrencies converted into dollars or pounds at the point of sale.

Cryptocurrencies face many challenges

Despite tentative yet encouraging signs of cryptocurrency adoption by retailers, Bitcoin and other digital assets still have to surmount various obstacles before they could be used on a truly large scale for payments. In the case of Bitcoin, it arguably isn’t suited to being a massively popular means of payment. Technically, its blockchain is capable November 2021 | 39


Digital payment

“A recent survey from the Financial Conduct Authority reveals that cryptocurrency ownership is growing in the United Kingdom. Some 2.3 million Brits now own cryptocurrency of one kind or another, up from 1.9 million in 2020. This is a trend that, sooner or later, retailers and other businesses will be compelled to follow, particularly as they seek to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and attract new business. They will want to cut off a slice of the growing crypto pie for themselves, and fortunately there are now an increasing number of payment processors helping them to do just that.” of only seven transactions per second (or a few more with recent upgrades), whereas Visa’s network can reach 24,000. Conversely, ‘layer2’ solutions such as the Lightning Network (a network sitting on top of the main Bitcoin blockchain) still have a number of bugs and other technological challenges to overcome before they become entirely secure and reliable. Other cryptocurrencies, such as Cardano, Tron and (after an imminent upgrade) Ethereum, promise greater scalability by using a different process for verification. Known as proof-of-stake cryptocurrencies (because validators stake coins rather than solve computations), these coins could theoretically accommodate much more widespread use. Unfortunately, critics argue that they result in centralisation, with a few big validators having an outsized influence over the entire network. This arguably defeats the purpose of having and using a cryptocurrency in the first place, although it’s a truism that most consumers simply want things that work well, rather than things that realise an ideal. Aside from the technical challenges, cryptocurrencies - in particular bitcoin - also deter wider adoption in a number of other ways. Tesla famously began accepting bitcoin as payment for its cars in March, but it then performed a U-turn in May and 40

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said it was no longer accepting the cryptocurrency. This was because of Bitcoin’s considerable use of energy, which is now equivalent to Norway’s yearly consumption, and is also mostly derived from fossil fuels. Given that a company as forward-looking as Tesla was repelled from Bitcoin because of this, it stands to reason that less adventurous firms may be even more cautious. At the same time, it’s hard to avoid the big elephant in the room: speculation. This remains the predominant (and arguably only) use for most major cryptocurrencies, and it’s something that will deter retailers from directly accepting bitcoin or any other coin. Bitcoin, for instance, dropped in value by just over 40% in the 11 days following Tesla’s announcement that it was no longer accepting the cryptocurrency. Which retailer in its right mind would want to risk such a big cut to its revenues? Conversely, when speculation is the major use of cryptocurrencies, few holders will be inclined to actually spend them. Because even if bitcoin has fallen in price in recent weeks, it has also appreciated by around 300% in the past year. Again, which investor/speculator in their right mind would want to risk losing out on such disproportionate gains? This volatility greatly reduces the chance that retailers will fully embrace crypto in the sense of accepting it directly. However, assuming that cryptocurrency ownership does continue to rise, it seems inevitable that more retailers will seek to partner with the likes of BitPay and PayPal in order to allow customers to use their crypto holdings to fund purchases (which are ultimately settled in fiat currency). Indeed, a recent survey from the Financial Conduct Authority reveals that cryptocurrency ownership is growing in the United Kingdom. Some 2.3 million Brits now own cryptocurrency of one kind or another, up from 1.9 million in 2020. This is a trend that, sooner or later, retailers and other businesses will be compelled to follow, particularly as they seek to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and attract new business. They will want to cut off a slice of the growing crypto pie for themselves, and fortunately there are now an increasing number of payment processors helping them to do just that.

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Out of Office

VIP UK celebrated the launch of Windows 11

and 5 years of AMD Ryzen in style with a return to face-to-face events at the incredible Carden Park Estate on the 6th October 21.

The very first VIP Connect event, in conjunction with partners AMD and Microsoft, featured outstanding keynotes from Anjana Srinivasan of Microsoft and Omar Fakhri of AMD as well as our very own Elliott Hodgeon. It was wonderful to have our vendors and customers exchanging ideas and enjoying one

another’s company once again. The exquisite facilities of Carden Park provided such a unique and uplifting experience for our first event post lockdown. Thank you to everyone that attended and helped to make it such a fantastic occasion, we’re already looking forward to next year.


Smart tech

Why endpoint security is such a big part of the smart tech sale for the channel Jamie Box, Vice President of Global Sales, SentryBay explores how the channel can look to maximise business potential in the smart tech market.

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he smart tech market has so much to offer the channel, not least its current rapid rate of growth, which makes it very attractive. Fuelled by the pandemic, sales of smart TVs and other devices have soared, and according to GfK’s Market Intelligence Smart Home Report, Great Britain (along with Germany) was the biggest market by value for smart products last year. But of course, the pandemic has also seen a change in how our homes are used, and the lines between work tech and home tech have become blurred, at least for employees. Members of families are still sharing devices such as laptops and home PCs, but more importantly, the home network is also being accessed by a multitude of other devices, everything from smart speakers and smart TVs to robot vacuum cleaners. Setting up a network that enables IoT in the home and allows households to maximise the plethora of smart innovation is an opportunity for enterprising integrators. The area in which they can have the most long-term influence, however, is in securing this network.

Technology on the move

With many organisations in the UK re-opening offices since September, technology is once again on the move. BYoD models established in the last eighteen months to enable access to VDIs without incurring the cost of deploying thousands of managed devices will now be put to the test as workers return to their physical offices, at least some of the time. 42

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And it is this hybrid way of working that puts the emphasis back on security. How much control will organisations have over the devices that their employees are using and transporting from home to office and back again, and how secure are they? Given the growth in smart home and IoT products, it is inevitable that new devices are being connected to home networks all the time, and there is no way of knowing how secure they are. Without adequate security management every new gadget presents an unlocked gateway that an attacker can walk through to gain access to the corporate network. So it doesn’t matter whether these smart tech devices are for entertainment, to carry out a function in the home or to allow people to do their jobs, if they are unmanaged and connect either directly or indirectly to a company’s systems, they are a threat.

Role for the channel

As the channel considers how best it can maximise the opportunities presented by this growth in smart technology, it should first recognise just what it has already achieved over the past eighteen months. Integrators have been at the forefront of transformations in the market that have allowed companies to protect themselves, their employees, and their customers from the vulnerabilities that the sudden move to remote work exposed. The rise in cyberattacks is well documented, but it would have been much worse if it weren’t for the diligence of the channel in identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities for customers. It is now the role of the channel to provide guidance and expertise as companies face the next phase in this journey. www.pcr-online.biz


Smart tech

As device usage changes, integrators can play a greater role in educating firms and their employees about the threat of cyberattacks and what they can do to secure not just standard laptops and computers, but all the other smart devices that may be connected to their networks. From our point of view, all of these devices are endpoints, and the same security posture should be applied regardless of what they do, or what they look like. Organisations can find it a challenge to ensure security software or tools are accurately implemented by workers outside the office, and this is another area in which integrators can help. Solutions that give an oversight of employee engagement and activation and put in place measures to encourage registration and download can be specified to tackle this problem. Another related issue is compliance. While it is an important consideration for companies, it is of little interest to end users, particularly in their own homes, so the best way to ensure regulations are being met is by building a secure environment, regardless of where the employee is located. This is where the role of the channel will be essential in the months to come if organisations are to build a defensive wall against attacks. There is plenty of data to help them prove their point. In January last year a report in the US detailed how a hacker published a huge list of credentials for a remote access protocol that is used to control devices over the Internet. More than 515,000 servers, home routers and smart devices were included. Just this month, another report stated that in the first half of the year, 1.5 billion attacks were made on smart devices – a 100 percent increase over the previous year. It is no coincidence that as smart devices have been increasingly used to log onto corporate networks the incidence of cyberattacks has increased. Hackers will use any means necessary to reach their end-goal, and employees need to understand this. No one would want their device to be the weak link in their company’s security chain.

Getting in front of the customer

To spread this message and help organisations address their increasingly widely distributed security footprint does not mean that integrators must travel far and wide. The days of traditional enterprise sales models that saw integrators and vendors criss-crossing the country to see customers have changed. Not only are most organisations aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, but if they work within well organised, well-supported vendor partner programs that include enablement and direction, integrators alone can carry out local, face-to-face interactions that answer all a customer’s requirements. www.pcr-online.biz

The impact of a well-planned in-person session is considerable, not only to provide support and technical guidance but to build confidence and trust. For security vendors like us, this means that partners can offer an extension to their sales approach, allowing them to take responsibility for in-person contact, reduce travel and its environmental impact and most importantly, build valuable relationships. To make this work, it is down to vendors to structure comprehensive partner programs that can be put in place with both parties working to ensure integrators can be a true extension of the security vendor sales function. All the years of value and insight that they built prior to the pandemic should be brought to the fore now. The link between smart home devices and the vulnerability of the enterprise network may not be automatically made by organisations, and work needs to be done to highlight the risks and the solutions that can be provided by the channel. Vendors must also get behind this message and deliver training and workshops that focus on the IoT, the remote and hybrid workforce, and the need to readdress security protocols. If requests for help come directly to vendors from customers, they should be gently steered towards trusted partners, who are better placed to manage the end-to-end process of specifying, deploying, training and maintaining endpoint security solutions inside and outside the corporate perimeter. The more that vendors can do now to bolster the growth of smart tech for our reseller partners, the better it will be for us all in the long run. November 2021 | 43


PCR Awards 2021

The PCR Awards 2021 in Pictures Many thanks to everyone who attended the PCR Awards on Wednesday 29th September, hosted by Gabby Logan, at The Grand Connaught Rooms, London. Here’s who scooped an award on the night celebrating the very best of the industry, across five key categories: retail, reseller, channel services, distribution and vendor.

Channel Services

Retailer

Dealer Services: Synaxon UK Ltd

Gaming Retailer: Go2Games.com

Marketing and PR Agency: Jargon PR

Independent Retailer: The Powerhouse (Jersey Electricity)

Distribution

Online Retailer: OnBuy

Consumer Electronics Distributor: CMS Distribution

System Builder: PC Specialist

Hardware Distributor: Tech Data Ltd

Vendor

Software and Services Distributor: QBS Software

Business Monitors Vendor: Philips Monitors / MMD

Gaming Vendor

Business Peripherals Vendor: Kingston Technology Europe

Gaming Monitors Vendor: MSI

Networking Vendor: TP-Link UK Ltd

Gaming Peripherals Vendor: MSI

PC Vendor: AMD Security Hardware Vendor: Seagate Technology

Reseller

Security Software Vendor: BullGuard

Corporate VAR: SCC

Smart Home Vendor: TP-Link UK Ltd

MSP Specialist: SCC SMB Reseller: Ebuyer

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Rising Star: Ben Clark PCR Company of the Year: HANNspree www.pcr-online.biz


PCR Awards 2021

Many thanks to all our awards partners: Bullguard, QBS Software, AOC, HANNspree, BenQ Corporation, Tenda, BOX and Netatmo.

See you in 2022!

www.pcr-online.biz

November 2021 | 45


Sector Guide

New products to get your hands on Here are some of the latest tech launches to hit the high-street this month, from Sony’s Xperia PRO-I Smartphone to Kramer AR Teaching Studio with Sony AI.

Sony’s Xperia PRO-I Smartphone “Sony’s new Xperia smartphone, the Xperia PRO-I combines a 1.0-type sensor, 24mm ZEISS Tessar Optics, advanced image processing and AF (autofocus), 4K 120p video recording and much more, delivering professional imaging quality from an ultra-slim 8.9mm form factor.” Specs: 1.0-type sensor with phase detection AF, 1.0-type Exmor RS sensor with a 2.4µm pixel pitch for stunning low light performance, RAW 12-bit shooting for incredible dynamic range, and dual aperture (F2.0/F4.0 to easily change the depth of field in line with the photographer’s intention, BIONZ X, front-end LSI. Contact: Sony

Kramer AR Teaching Studio with Sony AI “The latest Augmented Reality (AR) Teaching Studio Solution designed for virtual or hybrid learning by Kramer Electronics Ltd. and Sony Electronics combines Kramer’s control solutions and other various audio, video, and management products, with Sony’s Edge presentation, visualisation and analytics suite (REA-C1000). Edge blends AR software with AI technology to enhance presentations and improve the visual and audio quality for all participants. “The Kramer Control platform is embedded on a specially designed tablet that allows the presenters to move around the space freely and easily operate all the equipment in the room via a single user interface. The handwriting extraction feature ensures that any words and diagrams written on a whiteboard or a blackboard remain in full view to the audience, no matter where the speaker is standing. Chromakey-less CG Overlay technology extracts the presenter’s image and overlays it onto any background image, animation, or video in real-time without the need for dedicated studio equipment or a specialist graphics operator. Specs: Optional licenses for handwriting extraction across multiple displays, PTZ auto-tracking, close-up by gesture features, Chromakey-less CG Overlay and real-time cropping, all through a single device, AR technology, PTZ auto-tracking cameras, Close-up by gesture technology Contact: Kramer Electronics Ltd.

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Sector Guide

Brother UK’s inkjet printer range “Brother UK’s new range of compact A4 inkjet printers are ideal for use in the home. “All models in the new Mini Regular series offer print volumes of 50 to 1,000 pages a month and a standard cartridge yield of 200 pages. “The stylish new models offer wireless connectivity and can be operated using the new Brother Mobile Connect app, which allows users to send a file to print from anywhere at any time.” Specs: Available on iOS and Android, Share and review scanned documents, monitor ink and toner levels, order replacement Brother genuine supplies from their mobile device, print, copy and scan functionality with a 6.8cm LCD touchscreen, Print resolution up to up to 1200 x 6000 dpi Contact: Brother UK

Kingston Digital KC3000 PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD

“The KC3000 PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD from Kingston Digital is ideal for desktop and laptop PCs using the latest Gen 4×4 NVMe controller and 3D TLC NAND. “You can expect speeds up to 7,0000/7,000MB/s read/write of fast performance and full capacities up to 4096GB for optimal storage. Users can experience better performance with software applications such as 3D rendering and 4K+ content creation by upgrading the systems storage. KC3000 is built with high-density 3D TLC NAND housed in a M.2 2280 form factor to store even more and enable users to take advantage of PCIe 4.0 speeds. KC3000 is reinforced with a low profile, graphene aluminium heat spreader to effectively disperse heat and keep your drive cool during intensive workloads.” Specs: next-gen PCIe 4.0 technology, 4×4 NVMe controller, 3D TLC NAND, speeds up to 7,0000/7,000MB/s read/write, up to 4096GB Contact: Kingston Digital Europe Co LLP

Sony’s ALPHA 7 IV with 33-Megapixel full-frame image sensor “Sony’s interchangeablelens camera ALPHA 7 IV with newly developed 33- megapixel (approx., effective) full-frame image sensor and two new flashes, the HVL-F60RM2 and HVL-F46RM offers a full-frame camera with excellent image quality and performance. The new model features the latest BIONZ XR processing engine and advanced AF (autofocus) capabilities based on the Alpha 1 model. The ALPHA 7 IV also boasts 33 MP resolution, rich movie expression and various features. “The ALPHA 7 IV brings together the best of Sony imaging technology to deliver a fantastic experience in both stills and video, meaning that users will be able to capture exactly the content that they want, in whatever situation they find themselves in.” Specs: Advanced autofocus, Uses Sony’s original recycled plastic SORPLAS, 33MP full-frame back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor, superior image quality, Wide ISO sensitivity range expandable to ISO 50-204800, High resolution expresses smooth gradation, fine details and textures, 15-stop dynamic range Contact: Sony

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Interview

Life in the channel CWSI’s,

Ronan Murphy CWSI, mobile and cloud security specialists is investing over £1M to support the growth of its business in the UK. Additionally, the company is embarking on a new partnership with SentinelOne, to extend its capabilities in Endpoint Detection and Response. The company was also recently named as one of a select number of UK and Irish members of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA). Michelle Winny, Editor of PCR caught up with CWSI’s CEO, Ronan Murphy to find out more.

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Interview

C

WSI’s new investment of over £1M to support the planned growth of the business in the UK includes the creation of 25 new roles in the UK and Ireland by the end of 2022. Most of the new roles are being created within CWSI’s service delivery and technical consulting teams, and the new hires will also include apprentices as CWSI is launching a new UK apprenticeship programme in 2022 to encourage more young people into a career in IT and security. This announcement is part of CWSI’s wider plan for growth through a combination of organic expansion and M&A activity. Earlier this year, CWSI acquired UK-based cyber and cloud security services provider, AVR, which consolidated its UK credentials and capabilities and resulted in a 100% staff retention rate. Here’s what Ronan Murphy, CEO of CWSI told PCR. Please could you tell us a bit more about CWSI and your role within the company? CWSI has been in business since 2010. We focused on mobile security from our inception as mobile was in our DNA having previously worked in this area, traditionally supporting devices and operating systems such as RIM/Blackberry. We have extended our reach into cloud and mobile security as the world moves to a cloud first/mobile first environment. CWSI is not a generalist IT service provider, but a specialist, and we intentionally focus on providing modern security solutions, partnering with market-leading software vendors, to help clients to get secure and stay secure. The experience and knowledge we have gained over the last 10 years in modern security is now in much demand. I am privileged to lead the business and most of my time is spent on our strategic goals regarding new markets, new partnerships and making sure we have the right resources in place to deliver on all of the above. Please could you tell us a bit more about the £1M investment to support UK growth plans? What does this involve and what are the benefits? This investment will support the planned growth of the business and represents our most significant commitment to people we have made to date – we are essentially a “People Business” and the technical delivery, consultancy, service assurance and project management roles here will enhance our customer experience and service delivery offerings going forward by beefing up each area with resource and talent. The investment underscores our dedication to our customers and enables us to enhance our capabilities in line with demand as we continue to grow. Pease could you explain a bit more about CWSI’s plan to launch a UK apprenticeship programme? We’re partnering with an organisation called Intequal who specialise in IT and digital apprenticeships. We’re starting with four apprenticeship roles: one in engineering, two in service desk and one in digital marketing. The apprenticeships run for 15 months and consist of 80% on-the-job training and 20% virtual classroom training. It’s a great opportunity for motivated young workers to begin a career in IT and helps CWSI to build skills in an extremely competitive marketplace. We have seen how the IT skills gap has negatively impacted the industry and plan to play our part in helping to narrow this gap.

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November 2021 | 49


Interview

What does being named as one of a select number of UK and Irish members of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA) and recognised as a Deloitte Best Managed Company mean to you and CWSI? Our acceptance as the first Irish Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) into MISA, and one of a select few in the UK, is a huge validation of our strategy over the last three or four years. Only around 10% of Microsoft partners have accreditations in security and of these only a tiny minority become MISA members. It’s another way for our customers and potential customers to recognise CWSI as one of the very best Microsoft security partners and reassures them that they can trust us with their security. It also increases our visibility within Microsoft, enables us to learn from our peers and to get early access to, and provide feedback on, new Microsoft security products and features. Being recognised as a Deloitte Best Managed Company means a lot to us. It is acknowledgement of the Senior Management Team we have built up over the past five years and of the processes we have in place within the business to deliver best in class services to our clients, who can see the investment we make on an ongoing basis to support their organisations and their employees. Please could you tell us a bit more about the new partnership with SentinelOne and how this extends CWSI’s capabilities in Endpoint Detection and Response? CWSI has a heritage in enterprise mobility but what we’re seeing now is a trend towards more convergence of endpoint security across all endpoint types. In May 2021, we acquired UK-based cyber and cloud security services provider AVR. AVR was one of the first SentinelOne partners in Europe and we are continuing to build on this strong relationship. SentinelOne’s Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) and Extended Detection & Response (XDR) capabilities allow us to move beyond the mobile conversation and help customers to secure PCs, laptops, servers and even cloud workloads. By partnering with SentinelOne we can now provide real-time SOC services for the first time. What benefits does achieving Android Enterprise Service Provider accreditation deliver? Android has long been the dominant operating system in the consumer mobile space but it has also consistently grown market share as a mobile operating system within the business market. Achieving this status gives us the Google “seal of approval”. Our engineers need to pass exams for us to be accepted, meaning customers can be confident in

our skills and capability. From a technical perspective, our engineers get additional access to Google’s own experts and resources to stay close to developments in the Android platform. This accreditation recognises our depth of expertise in building and supporting solutions for business and government using Android’s in-built capabilities. We’ll be also promoted in the Android Solutions directory. What other plans do you have to drive business forward? We have some exciting new partnerships we will be announcing before the year end and we continue to look at complimentary businesses from an acquisition point of view. We are currently experiencing CAGR of 30% organically and we expect to see this number increase in 2022 due to the hyper growth sector of the market we operate in – so we will be busy on the growth front – that’s for sure! What growth plans do you have for the UK and beyond? As mentioned, we are continuously developing new partnerships and recently we have invested in our own security and compliance solutions, which we will bring to the UK market early next year. We are also looking at expanding our existing teams in our UK direct and indirect channels to meet market demand. We have recently won a number of EMEA-wide contracts and we expect to have a presence in mainland Europe before the end of H2 next year. Our longer-term vision is to become a pan-European leader in modern security through a combination of organic growth and M&A activity.

“As mentioned, we are continuously developing new partnerships and recently we have invested in our own security and compliance solutions, which we will bring to the UK market early next year. We are also looking at expanding our existing teams in our UK direct and indirect channels to meet market demand. We have recently won a number of EMEA-wide contracts and we expect to have a presence in mainland Europe before the end of H2 next year. Our longer-term vision is to become a pan-European leader in modern security through a combination of organic growth and M&A activity.” 50

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