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Alla Goldner, Director, Technology, Strategy & Standardization at Amdocs

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Alla Goldner - InsideTelecom

Amdocs is an international company founded in 1982 that specializes in software and services for communications, media and financial services providers and digital enterprises. The company helps service providers, communications agencies and financial service providers with modernizing solutions that involve digitization and automating systems and services in many industries. 

Mrs. Alla Goldner, Director, Technology, Strategy & Standardization at Amdocs, discusses the company’s strategic direction, the future of 5G and building a better connected world.

What are some of Amdocs’ most notable achievements?

Our company’s purpose is to enrich lives and progress society and help build a better connected world using creativity and technology. Over the years, we have partnered with the leading players in the communications and media industry, enabling next-generation experiences in 80 plus countries through hundreds of transformation projects. We have helped service providers better meet the evolving needs of their customers as they drive growth and transform and take their business to the cloud. In the network domain for example, Amdocs has helped communications service providers open their networks to their full potential by providing software and services in the areas of network engineering and rollout, hybrid network management and automation, cloud/virtual network expansion and autonomous operations for LTE, 5G, fiber, cable, satellite and more. These are all notable achievements that we are very proud of.

You are recognized as a female pioneer in the world of telecoms. Can you tell us how you came to achieve this role? What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced?

I have always worked in the most innovative areas of telecommunications, with some of the recent examples being 5G, NFV/SDN, and cloud-native networks. I always strive to see the bigger picture, which not only includes a combination of the key aspects of the most advanced technologies, but also the relevant definitions and implementations, the impacted standards, evolving open source communities, and the vendor implementations.

I also participate in and manage several industry-body initiatives and activities. Some of my ongoing duties are ONAP requirements subcommittee chair and TIP OCN Orchestration stream co-lead. These roles really help me to see the broader technology evolution picture as an insider.

Some of the biggest challenges, but also an opportunity at the same time, is keeping pace with the continuously changing technologies and ecosystem in the world of communications networks, and the need to stay up to date with accurate and relevant technical and business information all the time.

As a female in this industry, I do my best to encourage young female engineers, inside and outside of Amdocs, to be proactive, to plan their career, and to not be afraid of failing while innovating.

Amdocs has launched a special section related to COVID-19 on their website. Can you share some insights from this section?

The post COVID-19 world is one in which service consumption and network traffic patterns will be much more dynamic than before. There are all kinds of new challenges service providers are facing, such as, how to better optimize and build their networks, how to engage more effectively with customers through digital mediums, how to automate operations with less manual intervention, how to tailor and launch new types of service plans, and more. So, this section highlights some of the solutions that we can deliver to communications service providers to address these new challenges.

What are your thoughts regarding 5G deployment? What are the benefits and risks associated with the technology?

5G technology brings to service providers the opportunity to implement new use cases and deliver new services, including for the enterprise segment, ones that require very high bandwidth and extremely low latency, something which could not be achieved with the previous technology generation. It is important to mention that 5G also brings a new disruptive mix of standardization, open source and industry innovation communities and projects to telecom, such as ORAN, ONAP, and several new TIP projects (OCN being one of them). The challenge is to define where open source ends and where vendor implementation starts, and specifically, what vendors should do differently in this new changing environment, and how to maintain their own strengths and competitive advantages. One may look at these disruptions as an advantage, whereas others may see this as a risk. This is the reality though, and those who will be able to successfully adapt to these new patterns and build their products seamlessly on top of open systems and open source platforms will succeed, in my view.

What role do you think the pandemic will play on the telecom industry?

It may postpone some 5G deployment plans in the short-term, but I believe it will expedite things in the long-term (well, I hope pandemic will not last long!). The reason for that is the highlighted and fast-growing need for high-quality applications we are using from everywhere (and not only from the office or home) and the increased need to automate to reduce manual operations, which eventually requires very high levels of system assurance, including AI/ML, and excellent bandwidth and latency characteristics, which only 5G can deliver. 

Amdocs has partnered with some of the biggest names in the industry. What are some tactics you deploy to attract and maintain high-quality partners?

The communications industry is undergoing significant disruption in many areas, but one area that I will focus on is around the transition to open cloud networks. Here, a larger and more diverse ecosystem is starting to participate in providing solutions. We are successful in partnering with some of the biggest names in the industry, such as cloud-scales like Google, Amazon and Microsoft, because we bring not only advanced, complementary solutions like service and network automation platforms into the mix, but because we are also uniquely positioned as one of the most capable and experienced systems integrator in the communications domain. One that can pull together and integrate all the pieces to help communications service providers on their network transformation journeys to the cloud.

What are some of the biggest trends currently in the telecom world? Are you doing anything to stay ahead of these trends?

The biggest trends I would identify are ‘softwarization’ and virtualization of the telecom networks and the move to the cloud. Virtualization is turning into a push for ‘cloud-nativeness’, with major activity by cloud providers such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and others. These companies are also starting to take share in traditional areas of the telecom world, especially for different types of edge deployments. Additionally, another significant trend is openness and creation of Open APIs among different network layers and components, defined by standards organizations such as ORAN, 3GPP, TMF, MEF, along with open source for the components themselves (ORAN-OCS, ONAP, Akraino, CCNT, TIP OCN are some examples of the relevant communities). And 5G, which is well on its way to being deployed across the globe, would be the first, hopefully successful, combination of all these mentioned trends. We are in lockstep, and in some cases staying ahead, with these trends, being closely and deeply engaged in leading the work done by some of these organizations. As an example, our leadership position in ONAP and in TIP OCN, right from the launch of these initiatives.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you have come across while in the telecom industry? How did you overcome these challenges?

For some years, it has been a world led by only a few big network vendors, such as Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, which made it very difficult, almost impossible, to bring any significant advances in standardization and reduction of lock-in through products built by other companies. The way to overcome this impasse is to get significant service provider support towards addressing this challenge jointly with standards bodies and new product entrants. By the way, this is something that I successfully did while working for my previous company, Allot, through introducing TDF (Traffic Detection Function), UPCON (User Plane Congestion) and several additional concepts into 3GPP standards. The landscape is becoming much more distributed and diverse, with all the trends I mentioned before, and therefore, I would guess the disruption may be easier to achieve now. Still, I would say, the major rule to overcome such challenges is to understand what the customer really wants and “recruit” them to support you.

From your experience, what is one lesson you think people should know at an early age?

Don’t be afraid to fail. One must try. In the worst case, a person will always have enough time to take a different path and will become more experienced through the failure. Young people – belief in your forces and ability to succeed is 50 percent of success, at least. And if you believe in yourself, and if have the confidence to take on challenges, others will also believe in you.

What advice would you give fellow women in the telecom industry?

With the introduction of work in the telecoms world largely done by the open source communities and by industry collaboration communities, the need in human interaction skills becomes more and more important. This is where women can show their strengths – a combination of technical and human skills – IQ plus EQ, and this is what I would recommend fellow women to focus on to help them along their career path in the telecom industry.

In IoT, beyond the smartphone, door opener and coffee maker alarms, what application of IoT do you see really making an impact in the future?

Smart city is one of the major IoT applications which found its way into reality and will only expand. Smart factory is another significant example of successful ongoing adoption. The health industry, especially considering the ongoing Covid-19 situation, will become more and more digitalized with IoT devices to play the key roles of measuring and transforming the information within the system, so less human interaction and human resources are needed. And, the advent of 5G networks will only accelerate the deployment of more and more interesting IoT-based services.

Amdocs completes 1.7 billion customer journeys per day. What are the most common types of journeys completed?

Just to be clear, this refers to the journeys of end-users, that is end customers of the service providers that we serve. Examples of journeys we directly impact and complete include things like, an end-user utilizing an Amdocs developed digital portal to purchase a new offering or viewing and paying their bill. Another example of a journey is one where a user is consuming a service that includes the steps of authentication, authorization, access, policy control and charging, all again going through Amdocs systems. All kinds of communication and media consumption activities by consumers and enterprise users go through and directly touch Amdocs provided systems and solutions. We are in the critical path of supporting all these customer journeys.

What are some niche-market solutions that you have been able to work on?

I would not necessarily call these ‘niche’ as they will accelerate towards becoming mainstream in a few years. But given the spirit of your question, two emerging areas that we are deeply involved in is providing service and solutions as part of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and the ORAN Alliance initiatives, which I mentioned before already. TIP was founded by Facebook some years back, and both TIP and ORAN Alliance are focused on driving the realization of a vibrant open ecosystem of network solutions and integration services providers to help accelerate innovation, increase efficiencies, eliminate vendor lock-in and give service providers a wider choice of technologies and suppliers to help them transform and build the networks of the future such as 5G.

Can you envisage a completely cashless society or something close? What are the benefits?

I do believe it will happen at some point in time, as a fully digitalized community doesn’t need cash-based transactions and, in fact, there are some countries already, where cashless transactions are the norm. There are benefits in leveraging the same single platform people use for their bank transactions, for their shopping experience and for their personal expenses. However, there are different countries with different levels of digitalization at this time, therefore, the process will be gradual and will take a while.

Tell us more about the ‘good deeds’ solution. How does donating 700,000 GB help those in need?

I am assuming you are referring to the ‘good deeds’ solutions from service providers. I think this a great initiative the industry is taking to help users stay connected during these challenging economic times. The data donations service providers are making, is helping consumers worldwide stay connected during this pandemic, and this is somewhat akin to how food banks are keeping people fed during this challenging time. Of course, it’s not at the same level of urgent need, but it’s not that far off either. Connectivity is not a luxury, but a necessity in the world we live in today.

Besides speed, what is the importance of 5G for the world?

Realizing applications and services which require not only high speed, or in another words, bandwidth, but also low latency and along with several additional characteristics that only 5G can fulfill. This is on the technology side. But one major thing we sometimes forget about is enabling new monetization strategies to make it worthwhile to deploy, both for the carriers, and for the users.

How can some of your solutions help with business disruptions?

I will bring one example of what we are actively promoting in the standardization communities as well as in the industry in general. As you know, network slicing is a major 5G functionality, which allows to have separated virtual 5G networks, residing on the same physical infrastructure and using the same network functions. As I mentioned, one key thing for 5G to succeed is the ability to monetize it. A new charging method which can be useful for engagement of carriers with enterprises, is network slicing charging, where charge is not per mobile sessions of a subscriber, but by the consumption of a slice. We strongly believe this opens many opportunities for a new level of engagement and profitable monetization models, and thus, we include it as a part of our Network Slice Manager solution working along with our BSS system to drive innovation in this area.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

Interviews

Cisco VP highlights need for inclusivity when entering the 4IR

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As the global health crisis slowly subsides, one cannot ignore the fact that the pandemic forced a brave new world onto all of us. Pandemic-infused conundrums have evolved from mere debates between both people and companies, are now being actionably championed by those looking to thrive within the fourth industrial revolution.

The future of work, digital transformation, cybersecurity, smart cities, privacy, and everything in between have been thrown into the limelight, as the decisions and regulations taken today will affect our relationship with tech for generations to come.

To everyone, it’s considered a whole new world of opportunity where organizations of all walks of life have been forced to convert to digital, not only to remain adaptable to the winds of change of technology, but to merely survive the data explosion to come.

A 2018 McKinsey survey showed that well before the pandemic, 92 percent of company leaders believed “their business model would not remain economically viable through digitization.”

While companies across the globe have invested their resources into future-proofing their organizations, not many have championed the 4IR as notable as California-based tech giant, Cisco, who has been pushing for a more digital future from the get-go.

Inside Telecom sat down with Reem Asaad, Cisco’s Vice President for Middle East Africa, to better understand the company’s focus and efforts for what’s ahead.

INSIDE TELECOM: Cisco has been a driving force in a number of technological avenues, most notably by championing both remote and hybrid working models; accordingly, how does the company view the future of work? And how will Cisco look to double down on this view?

Asaad: At Cisco we believe work is not where you go, it’s what you do. That’s why we’re flexible on the numbers of days in — or out — of the office. In fact, pre-pandemic only a third of our employees were in the office full time, so we’ve long been a hybrid-first company.

This puts Cisco, and our technologies, in a unique position to help other organizations advance their hybrid work strategies. We view powering hybrid work in two distinct ways: enabling a Hybrid Workforce and transforming Hybrid Workspaces.

Enabling a Hybrid Workforce means providing secure access and collaboration from anywhere, anytime. Transforming your Hybrid Workspace only happens when networking, security, and collaboration tools come together to enhance health and well-being, safety, and efficiencies.

INSIDE TELECOM: Remote working is considered as an important aspect of digital transformation with some calling it “a main pillar of the fourth industrial revolution,” with that in mind, how is Cisco looking to bolster digitization on enterprise-level with its offering?

Asaad: We’ve been taking significant steps forward in helping the industries unlock the potential of their hybrid workforces – providing with unique insights and studies, while enabling them to collaborate in new ways and drive inclusive experience.

Since the pandemic started, Cisco has launched more than 1,000 Webex innovations. At WebexOne 2021 that was held recently, we announced significant new innovations across Webex ecosystem, the industry’s first and most comprehensive end-to-end hybrid work solution.

Webex Suite’s new meetings and messaging capabilities help our customers empower equal participation, from everywhere. Similarly, our new collaboration devices enhance effective collaboration, and the new Webex Events portfolio powers hybrid events at scale. Additionally, Webex interoperability with Zoom, Microsoft and Google video communications platforms ensures seamless collaboration with customers’ preferred platforms and devices.

INSIDE TELECOM: As all aspects of life are quickly and fully transitioning into digital, the importance of cybersecurity grows along with it, how is Cisco applying a security-by-design approach to its products within its core industries of focus?

Asaad: We believe that security has to be at the heart of everything. Cisco is major player in the cybersecurity market, and we’ve been building security into all of our technology, including user and email access, device and endpoint protection, network security, and locking down apps and data.

We also made several product announcements recently, including SecureX enhancements that address integrating IT and security inventory and visibility, endpoint detection and response (EDR) to XDR transition functions, new cloud security features via its SASE offering, updates to its Umbrella cloud-based firewall, and a new cloud-native firewall for Kubernetes development environments.

INSIDE TELECOM: Companies, as well as people, are bombarded every day with a plea to become more secure online, yet cyber-attacks and breaches are dominating the news cycle week-in and week-out, giving the impression that these tips and pleas are not sticking. Since cybersecurity is considered one of Cisco’s fortes, what advice can the company give both groups to bolster their cybersecurity efforts?

Asaad: Whether we like it or not, cybersecurity is a topic that affects society as a whole. Security is the most important investment that a company can ever make. While it may be true that an investment in security is unlikely to generate new business, it cannot be denied that investing in security will prevent a company from experiencing serious resources losses and seeing its reputation compromised, perhaps irremediably. The damage can be so significant that even established companies have gone out of business after a cybersecurity attack.

Therefore, companies must secure every single component of the system: hardware, software, and network.

INSIDE TELECOM: As we’ve previously touched up, remote working, digital transformation, and cybersecurity are all intertwined in the development and transition into smart cities and communities; accordingly, could you briefly walk us through Cisco’s role within this transition?

Asaad: Digital technologies are the key driver to achieving social and economic good and powering an inclusive future for all. We at Cisco work closely with all public and private sector partners to develop an integrated vision, which reflects the leadership’s efforts to create community and aspiration-driven cities of the future, with flexible infrastructure that is capable to manage and deliver connected urban services.

From inclusive access to smart water systems, Cisco is a trusted partner in enabling cities to operate sustainably and meet the needs of their citizens.

INSIDE TELECOM: In your opinion, what have been the main obstacles within this transition?

Asaad: Many cities today have ambitions of becoming the smart cities of tomorrow. But to achieve this, they need to overcome the challenges associated with mapping out a complex strategy that involves public and private participants, direct and indirect stakeholders, integrators, network and managed service providers, product vendors and IT infrastructure providers.

Smart city planning is a balancing act that involves citizens, public organizations, state and local government and private enterprises. Once this balance is achieved, it creates huge opportunities for business, sustainability, disaster prevention, public safety, and quality of life improvements.

Investment must come not only in terms of infrastructure, but also in upskilling and developing digital competencies in the people who will operate and oversee various aspects of the smart city. With little margin for error, a smart city can only be enabled if the people bringing it to life are forward-thinking and fully knowledgeable of the tasks at hand. At Cisco, our Networking Academy (NetAcad) program is designed to do exactly that – build digital skills to futureproof careers and help nations advance their digital agendas. Since the program was introduced to the MEA region, we have trained in excess of 1.6 million students. Today, we have well over 1,600 active academies, in countries ranging from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to Egypt, South Africa and Kenya to name but a few.

INSIDE TELECOM: How can Cisco, and other major tech companies offer assistance to governments to hasten the progression into smart cities in an efficient and secure way for all?

Asaad: At Cisco, we believe that technology is the ultimate enabler and unifying link which makes people’s ambitions a reality. However, in the context of a smart city, a city can only be classed as ‘smart’ if it truly works for its people. Top-down approaches to smart city planning often do not consider the idiosyncrasies which may occur on a more granular, grassroots level. This is a mistake. A smart city requires constant iteration between its leadership, technology providers, end users and the wider public to create improved outcomes which can benefit the masses.

To address this, at Cisco, we are proud to be running an initiative known as our Country Digital Acceleration (CDA program). The program is a long-term partnership through which we work alongside national leadership, industry, and academia to achieve a country’s vision for a smarter and more sustainable future.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are local examples of nations we work closely with in the region, via our CDA program. Sectors which we continue to work alongside local stakeholders to transform range from education and healthcare, to trade, tourism and energy. In each case, it is digitization which is key to developing a particular industry, and we think not only about how the city can be reimagined to for the benefit of the economy, but also to improve quality of life for all.

INSIDE TELECOM: Smart city development comes hand-in-hand with greener initiatives that are meant to foster a fiercer fight against climate; earlier in September, Cisco committed itself to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, could you briefly walk us through the company’s roadmap?

Asaad: For more than 15 years, Cisco has worked toward a sustainable future by reducing emissions, reducing waste, building more efficient products, and setting and achieving ambitious goals.

We recently announced our commitment to reaching net zero for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across all scopes by 2040, 10 years ahead of when climate scientists say the planet must reach net zero to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Cisco’s net zero goal will be supported by ambitious near-term targets, including to reach net zero for all global Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2025.

To reach net zero include:

  • Continuing to increase the energy efficiency of our products through innovative product design
  • Accelerating use of renewable energy
  • Embracing hybrid work
  • Investing in carbon removal solutions
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Interviews

Salt Edge looks to steer digitalization of EU’s banking sector

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The global financial sector is witnessing an ever-growing change shaping Europe’s banking infrastructure into an increasingly competitive market. Open banking proved to people how it can alter financial services to accommodate their needs; all while fostering a continuing digitalization of modern life as Fintech companies set the stage for simplified yet optimized solutions to deliver reliable economic efficiency.

These changes have brought companies such as UK-based Salt Edge into the limelight as it supports customizable services for customers, by synchronizing banking services with users’ needs. Since customer loyalty and satisfaction sets the main pillars for the financial sector, the merger between technology and finance delivers Salt Edge with the needed tools to comply with consumers’ expectations with the immense rise of digitalization on all fronts.

Inside Telecom dives deeper with Salt Edge’s CEO, Dimitri Barbasura, to highlight the Fintech’s conduct of meeting customer demands in compliance with the regulatory authority. As well as delivering elaborated insights regarding open banking and its role in addressing the needed support for the UK as it embraces a modernized approach in its banking sector.

As one of the big names in the industry, piloting the ever-changing effect of the rise of Fintech on the European Union’s financial sector, the CEO elaborated on how the company is assisting in enhancing consumers’ financial status in the UK and on a global level. In addition to the Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC) duty in delivering high-quality services in coherence with governmental regulatory footprint.

INSIDE TELECOM: As the financial sector takes a bigger leap into a digital ecosystem, how do you think open banking will affect the European Union’s take on its current financial sectors?

Barbasura: From our position of open banking and open finance, PSD2, which is already two years old, is changing the world for the better. There are new products and solutions occurring, targeted towards the wellbeing of society – in general, individuals and business – in particular. Take, for example, on-the-go carbon emissions calculators based on personal expenses or the fairer credit assessment occurring from unified aggregated data, translated into financial insights. Especially in COVID-19 times, this has proven to be very helpful, allowing creditors to approach their activity more responsibly. Open banking increases security and decreases overall expenses by changing the instruments we use for paying. As these new payment instruments and solutions are being created, economic efficiency rises and makes what was previously accessible to bigger corporate clients – now available for SMEs. What used to be available for SMEs is now accessible for retailers, and so on. Budget planning, financial advising – all these solutions lead to open finance, which we hope will soon be consolidated by payment service directive (PSD3). Thus, data access will involve more than current payment accounts, including investment, lending, mortgage, and unveiling the full potential of the financial sector.

INSIDE TELECOM: The company’s API has been seen as one of the leading banking solutions for over 5 years, can you elaborate on some cases where the company’s API helped in consumers’ financial health and sustainability?

Barbasura: There are plenty of use cases among our clients showing how open banking works for the general well-being. Businesses like Credit Hero and Lendex have turned to Salt Edge for open banking solutions to ensure a wider financial inclusion for their customers. This is probably the domain where open banking has the most noticeable impact, allowing individuals and businesses access to funds otherwise unreachable to them. Using open banking data enables lenders to give a second chance for credit approval to potentially great loan applicants who have initially been rejected simply due to lack of credit history (first-time borrowers, migrants). Besides, open banking cancels potential manipulations in physical bank statements while helping financial institutions save on fraud detection, underwriting, or credit risk-related issues. Lenders see the authentic financial picture of potential borrowers and tailor their offering to the real-time status quo.

Another interesting use case is how open banking-based public financial management (PFMs) contribute to more responsible financial behavior. We live in a consumerist era. And, while most of us don’t even realize it, PFMs like Spendee, Toshl, MoneyWiz, and Planner Bee, manage to comprise all bank data based on open banking capabilities and transform it into a picture detailing the users’ financial behavior and the areas that need adjustments. Thus, end-users can shift from reckless expenses to a more rational, sustainable lifestyle. 

What we’ve carefully observed throughout our clients is that, by leveraging open banking possibilities, their companies become more viable. This is obvious since open banking contributes to preserving ecological balance by:

● Stimulating behavioral changes.

● Cutting down on unjustifiable consumerism.

● Enhancing green finances (green lending & investing).

● Improving financial inclusion for underserved categories by simplifying bank data sharing even across continents, for ex-pats, and introducing alternative reliable data sources for credit analysis for people with thin credit file. 

● Reducing plastic cards and cash use.

INSIDE TELECOM: In August, the company collaborated with software company Finastra. What was the incentive that led to this collaboration?

Barbasura: For most banks, especially those which are not tier 1, the legal and technical requirements concerning opening API’s access to their infrastructure are far from being crystal clear. They need to invest a lot of effort in understanding what vendor suits them best, what legal provisions they must respect in accordance with to become compliant, what assessments they must conduct, and the mechanisms they need to have in place. All this is very costly for businesses to accomplish. Add that to the expenses involved with opening APIs, making them usable, safe, sustainable, and integrable, with high availability and security requirements.

Finastra is a core banking vendor supporting multiple banks in the EU and beyond. They chose our solution as it includes a variety of options banks can choose from when building their digital banking puzzle for becoming PSD2 compliant. Prior to pre-integrating our solution into Finastra’s platform, Salt Edge has successfully passed all due diligence audits, safety systems, and data services checks, so that banks can choose our solution with peace of mind.

Our collaboration with Finastra is that happy situation where there was a market request, we had the perfect solution to answer it, and Finastra is the right partner to scale up the solution’s availability.

INSIDE TELECOM: Currently, the banking sector is enduring immense pressure to heighten its competitiveness to stay in the league. What approach does Salt Edge support to help banks optimize their profitability while reducing businesses’ time to market for new products?

Barbasura: First of all, Salt Edge helps banks become PSD2 compliant, which enables them to save time and effort resources and invest them in creating open banking-based products. In this perspective, our company acts as a technical service provider (TSP) for regulated institutions. Therefore, we cover all the above-mentioned for banks, due to our expertise, knowledge, and experience. Here are some of the ways we help banks and diminish their go-to-market:

●     We know and advise which use cases are viable for payment initiation, how to adjust the merchant proposition to it, what complications may occur on the way and how banks can overcome them and bring their project to realization.

●     We automatize a lot of processes. Out of 6,000 banks across Europe, some of them still require manual onboarding. In these cases, we either automate the process, where dynamic onboarding is supported, or we perform the entire manual onboarding process for the bank thus decreasing the timeframe required for the solution to go live.

●     We cover all the necessary components – technical implementation, connection to thousands of banks, highest security standards, consultancy for PSD2 strategies, and others. This way, we help banks to do everything correctly from the beginning.

Another advantage is that our clients work with one single vendor covering all the EU, which is very critical for payments. Imagine that a merchant works with a bank and sells its products all over the EU. In this case, the bank needs a vendor who will support payments across the EU for a seamless process. In other words, Salt Edge exceeds the notion of “go-to-market”. We literally help clients reach different markets from the EU, thus diminishing their expenses.

I’d also like to mention the value-added services provided by Salt Edge. Being one unique vendor, with one standard security model, one high-quality standard, helps us aggregate and provide all data, from various countries where our client is present, in a unified form to credit bureaus, for example. We use AI, machine learning algorithms, which again, saves lots of money for the client, and we are always adjusting and improving the algorithms upon our clients’ requests and feedback.

INSIDE TELECOM: Where do these approaches stand from a regulatory standpoint?

Barbasura: First, it all revolves around compliance with the open banking regulations from regions around the world: where data is kept, how it is encrypted and transmitted, who has access to this data, or how it gets anonymized. Take for example one of the value-added services provided by Salt Edge – financial insights. One of its components is data categorization. You cannot categorize something if you don’t know what you are categorizing. As a Technical Service Provider, Salt Edge works purely with information. Therefore, our activity is focused on safety. We perform regular penetration testing, vulnerability scannings, cyber security – and data privacy-related audits and certifications. We are always open to showing our clients and regulators our offices, our data centers, and demonstrating the operations and safety systems we have implemented. Maximum transparency and delivering exactly what we promise – this is what governs our relationships with the clients.

INSIDE TELECOM: What additional plans does the company have to enforce the role of small banks in accommodating the market’s needs, as Central Banks are working globally to issue their CBDCs?

Barbasura: We at Salt Edge are agnostic to underlying payment schemes and currencies since we work with any data set that can be presented as an account and set of transactions. As for CBDCs, we see lots of potential in it related to instant payments. It would be way cheaper (or even zero cost), which is directly benefiting small banks, end customers, retailers, and other businesses.

Actually, I believe that not having a stable digital coin in the 21st century, when all the premises for its existence and functionality exist, is rather strange. This is the future. It is safe, controllable, the source of money and the expenses are easily traceable, which is especially important for Anti Money Laundering (AML)/ Counter-terrorist financing (CTF) practices and terrorism-sponsoring prevention. CBDC is something that should have happened yesterday.

INSIDE TELECOM: To what extent will the company go to help these small banks defend themselves from any potential fraudulent scenarios?

Barbasura: We do work with data, but we are not specialized in fighting fraud, however, Salt Edge provides rich information for fighting fraud. We have very limited access to the interaction between the user and the bank. Nevertheless, we always promote strong customer authentication and dynamic linking as critical components of the aforementioned interaction. Besides these two elements, using a combination of security measures like possession, inheritance, and knowledge combined in a user-friendly way enhances security utmost, decreasing risk.

When I say “user-friendly”, I mean that every integrated safety measure must be maximally client-oriented and thoroughly explained, in terms of why it is important, how it protects the end-user and how to use it.

We believe the most effective defense is when the bank and only the bank control authorization of the payment and end-customer pays using the WYSIWYP principle (What You See Is What You Pay).

INSIDE TELECOM: The UK’s historical role in the financial sector could potentially shape the Fintech industry’s future outline in the country. What solutions could the company implement to help heighten the UK’s role in Fintech on a global scale?

Barbasura: In this manner, Salt Edge can promote two things that are already going well in the UK. The first one is the Open Banking standard, which is very well compiled and, with the right support, would diminish the market’s fragmentation. We have developed the payment service directives (PSD2) Compliance Solution at Salt Edge and already tailored it to the particularities of existing open banking standards around the world, like Berlin Group, Open Banking in the UK, or CDR in Australia. We see the financial institutions from different regions struggling with these differences and believe that unifying these standards will simplify a lot of things. Second, we can promote strong customer authentication and dynamic linking – elements that are significantly increasing safety. We’re already doing that through Salt Edge’s mobile Strong Customer Authentication, which considerably enhances the security of the payment experience, minimizes fraud risk, and guarantees customer protection.

Next, the UK has CMA9, the country’s 9 largest banking group. It is constantly introducing progressive initiatives, such as VRPs and we think that, from the UK’s point of view, it would be very useful to have it supported not only by these nine banks but also by all banks that can ensure it technically. This would be an example to the EU and other countries looking at the effectiveness of open banking.

Using fintech solutions for paying, investing, saving, and other operations must become a norm, just like we’re using apps for any other needs. It should be a norm, not a privilege.

Another way that Salt Edge is contributing to the UK consolidating its role in open banking is by opening up markets outside the country for local businesses – offering access to 5000+ banks across the globe. Many companies need various geographies to grow bigger in spite of the UK being one of the most innovative markets.

Therefore, I really hope that regulators from all countries, including the UK, the EU, and others can unify all legal approaches in one unique regulation so that once a business gets licensed in one region, it gets the occasion to passport it in other regions as well. Besides other advantages, it would decrease expenses, and this is the direction all should strive to.

INSIDE TELECOM: Under which regulatory umbrella could Salt Edge implement these solutions to augment the UK’s presence in the industry?

Barbasura: To answer this question narrowly, Salt Edge Limited is regulated in the UK, with an EU entity in the process of becoming regulated in the EU at the moment.

In a broader manner, PSD2 has been transposed into each country’s legal framework with local adjustments which need to be taken into consideration when entering the market. And we always do it. As mentioned above, one of the ways Salt Edge contributes to the UK consolidating its leadership position is by helping UK businesses upscale within the country and further across the globe based on our solutions: Open Banking Gateway and Open Banking Compliance Solution.

From our point of view, we often act as technical service providers for regulated entities. In terms of general data protection regulation (GDPR), these entities act as data controllers, while Salt Edge acts as a data processor – processing data according to their instructions. Now, considering this, Salt Edge solutions are implemented in many regions, including the Middle East, Australia, LatAm. We are agnostic to regulation since we act by generically approved principles of security, data privacy, compliance, and governance of the data. Yes, there are details deferring from one regulation to another related to data storage, for example, but we always find satisfactory compromises with our clients.

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Interviews

Ian Terblanche, Global Strategic Sales & Channel Director at Sigfox

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Ian Terblanche Sigfox

As the world moves heavily towards digital inclusion, all aspects of life will become connected, paving the way to a more IoT-fueled tomorrow. A major player within this ring is Sigfox, the world’s leading service provider for IoT services, Inside Telecom sat down with the company’s Global Strategic Sales & Channel Director Ian Terblanche to discuss their solutions regarding this field, and its impact on connectivity.

Could you briefly tell us about Sigfox’s 0G network? 

Our global network allows billions of devices to connect to the Internet, in a straightforward way, while consuming as little energy as possible. Our game-changing approach makes it possible to send and receive data without the need for complex connections or SIM cards. Base stations simply listen in and capture specifically formatted radio messages from around the globe. Devices need something as simple, and as small, as the silicon chip that you find in a remote control.

How do your 0G IoT sensors and connectivity aid in the digital transformation efforts by incorporating real-time alerts about delays and transport conditions?

Sigfox has built a dedicated IoT network across 76 countries to serve 3 market segments:  

1. Security – we provide Securitas with an anti-jammable network for their home alarm service. Despite more people investing in alarm and remote surveillance systems to discourage burglars and enable them to react quickly to any intrusion, those same systems can be faulty, suffer from breakdowns or even jam at the worst possible moment because of a droppage in the GSM network linking them to the security company protecting your home. We also work with Verisure, a Swiss company that specialises in alarms with remote monitoring, to mitigate that potential risk in its own devices and system – by using our 0G network as a backup connectivity which, unlike the GSM network, is less likely to jam. Through 0G network connectivity, communications between Verisure and each individuals’ home virtually anywhere in the world is assured 24/7/365.

2. Asset tracking – we provide DHL with a global asset tracking service with seamless roaming globally. DHL has outfitted around 250,000 DHL roll cages with smart trackers using a 0G network. The result is improved visibility of the essential and valuable roll cages, which are used to transport large volumes of parcels – about five million shipments in Germany alone each working day. 

3. Monitoring – we provide the world’s largest food retailers with full end-to-end cold chain monitoring. This ensures that frozen food, for example, does not at any point in its journey go above the required temperature to keep it viable for purchase once in a supermarket.

In summary, no other network providers offer a single, global, open roaming IoT network that is exclusively designed and built for low cost, environmentally friendly data capture and transfer.

What are the benefits of using IoT to improve goods exchange between the EU and the UK? 

IoT allows both loaders and shippers to identify, track and isolate individual assets whilst digitally linking the required paperwork to the goods being transported. For example, in a mixed pallet shipment, where one consignment has an issue, the entire shipment is delayed. But, with IoT, the individual consignment can quickly be located, isolated and removed. IoT also provides near real time insight which allows decisions to be made quickly and at an individual shipment/consignment level.

What role does IoT play to reintegrate the UK into the European Union?

 IoT, if implemented correctly, provides the missing data to provide a clear consistent picture of cross boarder movement. In most applications, IoT bridges the gap between central data sources and the physical world, and in particular asset tracking and product movement. By strengthening supply chain visibility, IoT can dramatically reduce friction and minimize delays for smoother trade.

What is Sigfox doing to assist a post-Brexit UK to track transit paperwork towards shipment? 

We have several engagements across the supply chain within Europe and beyond. At their core, all of the engagements have the same requirement, to digitally link the physical asset/product to the required paperwork. This allows end-to-end visibility and facilitates near real time correction within the transportation process.

How does IoT implementation across supply chains aid businesses with Big Data? 

We believe that IoT fills a critical gap in the data required to give true end-to-end visibility. Most companies have good data sources within their enterprise estate and often their key suppliers can also provide data inputs. What is often missing is data from the physical world, outside of those companies and their supplier systems. IoT provides that data source to fill in the missing gaps, but the real question is how do companies gather IoT data from many different sources? This requires careful consideration.   

Will you be rolling out the fifth-generation technology to assist your IoT sensors? 

Our strategy is very clear, we work with the world’s largest silicon /semiconductor providers to reach ultra-low cost components that are sustainable and are the platform to facilitate IoT to enable everything. We have a combined roadmap with these suppliers and our eco-system provides the physical device manufacturing capacity to scale as the market adoption grows.  

Can you tell us more about any future plans to expand your services? 

We have many future plans, but not all that I can share right now. One I can talk about though is the strategic initiatives in our vision of open OSS. In response to growing market demand we are re-engineering our OSS to be a ubiquities data capture platform for multiple IoT devices. We see this as a key step to accelerate the entire IoT marketplace and to simplify data orchestration.

Could you please elaborate more on your recent partnerships with telecom operators to improve the quality of your services? 

We work with a number of telecom operators globally to provide a wireless portfolio with 0G connectivity for over 1.3 billion people and 17 million registered devices, and growing.  Our most recent partnership was with Citymesh in June, where Sigfox’s 0G network was selected thanks to our ultra-low consumption combined with low hardware and network costs. We will continue working with telecom operators to further develop offerings based on our 0G network.

As the pandemic slowly subsides, what have been some emerging challenges that you’re currently facing? 

CV19 has been devastating for so many reasons, however many positives have come from it: The environment has become a lot more central to many countries/companies thinking. Having faster visibility of issues and being smarter at making decisions has become even more important and finally the pandemic has totally transformed the historic view of supply chains. IoT adoption has increased, which in turn accelerates supply chains, and minimizes inefficiencies and costly delays.

What steps are you taking to resolve them? 

We have seen a big difference in the impact on different sectors: The logistics firms we work with have seen a massive increase in demand which has placed real stress on their infrastructure and asset management. Whereas in the brewery and retail (physical) sectors we have seen the opposite. What is common across all business sectors is that the pandemic has highlight real deficiencies in current business models which in turn has accelerated digitisation in all aspects of business re-architecting.

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