Aspis SA launch unique online Cryptocurrency Insurance product.

This week sees another first for the world of Fintech.  Swiss insurance broker Aspis SA have launched CryptoIns, a platform that provides insurance protection for its customers’ cryptocurrency funds held both in personal accounts on exchanges and in wallets.  The product itself can be bought with either Bitcoin or Ethereum, and any claims paid out will be disbursed based on the total amount of assets in the assured accounts recalculated in Bitcoins.

Until now, this is a unique product.  No other company has offered any such insurance solution for cryptocurrency account holders.

The insurance covers a gamut of eventualities including the risk of hacker attacks or the shutdown of an exchange due to the malicious actions of staff.  Customers of Cryptoins can rest assured that any losses will be paid in full.

The insurance is now available for 28 different exchanges and wallets.   The product includes well-known accounts; Binance, Bitfinex, Bitstamp, Bittrex, Poloniex, MEW, Ledger, Trezor for example, as well as relatively new hosts for accounts.  It is also an incredibly easy product to access. Interested customers are able to register on Cryptoins and simply select the accounts or wallets they wish to insure. Customers can also be reassured by the fact that all insurance payments are guaranteed by top global reinsurers.  

The price of an individual policy is calculated automatically depending on the size of the insured cryptocurrency portfolio as well as on the reliability of the given exchange or wallet.  This is assessed using a proprietary scoring model. The insurer’s liability limit is $7 million per exchange, with the liability limit for any one insurance policy up to 15 BTC per exchange.  ASPIS SA has plans to increase these limits in the future.

The rate of Crypto Currency has been somewhat buoyant of late.  Products such as these may help to give confidence to both rookie and experienced traders, not to mention entice new investors onto the scene.   With crypto insurance products such as these, customers have been given the opportunity to secure their accounts and protect their investments. Indeed, Timofey Volkov, the founder, and CEO of CryptoIns said;

“We are sure that the emergence of insurance products on the market is the next necessary step on the path to developing and spreading crypto technologies all over the world. Now our goal is to inform the entire crypto community that insurance of personal investments is a necessary, yet simple, step for everyone.”

Kraft Heinz to invest in FoodTech with $100m fund

Heinz are a household name…a staple in our kitchen cupboards (and on our chips) since they were founded all the way back in 1869!  Fast forward 150 years to this week, however, and their latest venture looks set to revolutionise the emerging phenomenon that is FoodTech.

Earlier in the week, Kraft Heinz announced the launch of Evolv Ventures, a $100 million fund aimed at emerging food tech companies.

Bernardo Hees, Kraft Heinz CEO believes that;

“…technological innovations in the food industry create endless new opportunities to strengthen business models”.  He went on to state that  “Through Evolv Ventures, we will work with tomorrow’s most innovative founders and companies in the space, and use the full resources of Kraft Heinz to help them succeed.”

The new fund, will be led by industry Bill Pescatello and will accelerate the company’s exposure to emerging technologies and businesses, and its hoped that it will better leverage its position within the industry.  Early reports appear to suggest that in the initial period the fund will target startups focused on supply chains, logistics, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer projects.

In a statement released earlier in the week, Pescatello said of the fund;

“At Evolv Ventures, we will move beyond brands to have a committed first look at our industry’s most promising and disruptive tech-enabled companies…With the insights, data and access available at Kraft Heinz, we look to take full advantage of our unique position and be the foremost value-added investor in the space.”

This move comes at a time when Kraft Heinz look to underline its presence and buck a dip in sales.  In recent years, consumers have moved away from processed store foods and have migrated toward healthy, better-for-you items.

This is perhaps best demonstrated by their other recent forays.  In March, Heinz established their own incubator platform, Springboard; designed to help develop, scale and accelerate the growth of young food and drink companies.   Among the 2018 Springboard class are Ayoba-Yo, Cleveland Kraut and Quevos.  These “disruptive” startups make biltong, fermented foods and egg-white crisps respectively.   They are brands which are producing protein-based and very much “on-trend” wellness products. Kraft Heinz are clearly looking to move toward collaborations with young, contemporary brands; those that are convenient and flavourful, but (perhaps) most importantly, are healthy.

With this latest Evolv venture though, the food giants are focusing on the technological innovations currently overhauling the food space.  They are set to tackle how, when and where consumers get the food they consume.

While this investment may not develop the next “Ketchup” or “Baked Beans”, it’s just as important.  FoodTech looks set to completely overhaul the way we eat and purchase our food. It was only a matter of time before the big brands joined the transformative startups disrupting the space!

Mental health charity teams up with Fantasy Football pundit

World Mental Health Day fell on Wednesday this week, so it seems fitting that we take this opportunity to report that mental health charity CALM, are continuing their strategy of linking up with key social media influencers in a bid to reach its core audience.

The charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) supports men at risk of suicide, and this week they announced that they have teamed up with a key figure in the online Fantasy Football community.  Mark McGettigan, who is best known on social media as the @FPLGeneral has high visibility among this growing social networking community. It is the hope that his popularity among the target demographic can be used for good…primarily to raise both funds and awareness.

McGettigan reached out to help the charity after hearing about their vital work through a podcast.  It was his intention to use his undeniably wide public reach to help promote their work. The explosion in popularity of the Fantasy Premier League in recent years means that McGettigan has a massive social following.  He is a regular pundit on the Premier League’s Fantasy Premier League Show and hosts the 59th-minute podcast. He also has Twitter followers of over 43k. As such, the potential for raising much needed additional revenue for the charity is huge.  Through the partnership, McGettigan has launched a Fantasy Football fundraising league in the FPL game and is asking for donations through a Just Giving page. Already he has raised more than a £1,000.

Simon Gunning, the CEO of CALM is highly supportive of this latest partnership.  He said;

“We’re delighted that FPL General has chosen to fundraise for CALM while highlighting our services across his huge followership on social media.  At CALM, we aim to get our messaging out to men in ways that are accessible and relatable…Fantasy Football is one such community that provides us with an opportunity to do this.”

This is not the only other digital partnership CALM have in the net, so to speak!  CALM is currently running a joint social media campaign with The Mix; a crisis support charity for young people, to run the #Gramfam Instagram zine.  

Additionally, last week CALM and the charity Missing People, each won a £300,000 grant from the Worshipful Company of Information Technologies to help them use artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the online support they offer vulnerable people.

Over recent weeks we have highlighted the ways in which a number of charities and Not For Profit organisations are embracing digital technologies to increase reach, raise funds and remain relevant in this digital age.  

This is a sector which has notorious financial restrictions.  Digital transformation although vital, is expensive. The restraints the third sector encounter mean that their opportunities are few and resources are limited.  The crucial point to raise about the benefits of using social media is that it is both free and highly visible. Influencers such as @FPLGeneral can be key figures in helping to promote the crucial work charities do from day to day.  CALM certainly do stirling work for a demographic who often suffer in silence. Here at Ignite Digital we hope that this latest partnership is both fruitful and long standing.

Netlify secure $30million to change the way developers build websites.

Netlify offer an all in one platform for automating modern web projects.  It is their vision to completely revolutionise how developers build websites, abstracting away the web server and instead breaking websites into microservices.  The process will then become more like building a mobile application than a traditional website.  On Tuesday, Netlify announced they have secured a $30M series B investment to help them realise that vision.  This investment brings the total raised to over $44 million.  

Chris Bach and Matt Biilmann co-founded the company in 2015, only 3 years ago.  They see the change they are trying to make as part of the larger shift to an API economy.  In recent years, APIs have given programmers an ease of development in a mobile context. They wish to emulate this and take the complexity out of web development.

Among other things, the latest funding will be used to scale their services, and build upon both the product and developer outreach.  

“For us, it’s very important to keep being a place where developers want to go and very easily can get something up and running. And then you can scale from there” – Bach, co-founder & President.

Additionally, the company wants to expand and build a more organized sales and marketing team to sell the Netlify approach to larger organizations. Indeed, Netlify are working to increase the number of websites running on their approach and see this as a long game mission to change the web. This is an expensive project and certainly can explain the large round on Tuesday!

Google to release Deepmind’s StreetLearn

This week we learn that Google is getting ready to release its pioneering StreetLearn dataset. The StreetLearn environment relies on images from Google StreetView, and has been used by Google Deepmind to train a software agent to navigate various western cities without the use of a map.  Instead, it uses visual clues such as landmarks to determine its location as it wanders the streets.

The system learns to negotiate the cities using deep reinforcement learning,  and is very loosely based on the structure of the human brain. It uses a series of mathematical models and multi-layered neural networks to gently emulate the way humans learn to navigate a city simply by looking around them.  

The StreetLearn software is made up of three neural networks.   A convolutional neural network that handles image recognition, which feeds data to two Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) networks; a type of recurrent neural network that serve as a form of memory.  In turn, this then allows the wider system to consider contextual data.

The two LSTMs have differing fuctions.  One is a policy network that decides the action the agent should take next based on its current reward state…whether the software agent should rotate left, rotate right or go straight ahead for example.  The other LSTM is a network that is solely responsible for memorising the local environment. For example, it is tasked with determining visual representations of “here”; the current position of the agent, and of “there”; the goal location.

Google have been able to use this tri-network structure to create an agent that has the ability to transfer what it has already learned from city to city.  By freezing the training of most of the neural networks used by the agent, the software can adapt to its surroundings. The convolutional neural network and the policy LSTM weren’t retrained with each new city.  Instead only the locale-specific LSTM was trained afresh when moving to a new location.

This is perhaps best put by Raia Hadsell, a research scientist on the Deep Learning team at DeepMind.  Speaking at the recent REWORK Deep Learning Summit in London, she said;

“We didn’t want to have an agent that just memorises a single city. A taxi driver in London is able to go to Paris and learn to drive there as well…they just need to….relearn where the landmarks are; where the river is, what the best bridges are.  But they don’t need to relearn what making a left turn is or what going straight feels like.”

She went on to say that Google are “going to release” StreetLearn for other researchers to use, “probably in November”.

Guinness World Records migrates to AWS.

Guinness World Records (GWR), are the worlds’ leading authority on record-breaking achievements.  Traditionally known for the publication of its eponymous book, “Guinness World Records”, GWR is now a digital-media brand agency with a wide range of products and services.  To support this transition, they have been forced to undergo a digital transformation; part of which involves a move from their current managed cloud services to Amazon Web Services.

This long-term project will help ensure that the company’s IT system can manage the transition from publishing to a that of a digital media agency.  Requiring a more scalable and agile platform, GWR have chosen Ensono to manage the migration of its business critical IT architecture to an Amazon Web Services platform.

GWR’s digital media and online record-processing services now attract 50,000 applications a year.  According to the organisation, a surge in record-breaking video uploads, combined with an increase in partnerships, were key drivers in the move to the cloud.  For the business’ continued growth, it is vital that its IT system remains flexible and adapts to the changing market. AWS was the best solution for this and catered to GWR’s demand for scalability.

Ensono and GWR have worked together on various projects over the past 16 years.  IT Director at GWR, Rob Howe believes they are the best in the business, having “proven expertise in managed public cloud”.  

He goes on to say;

“the next phase of our journey is to become an innovative, cloud-first company, with accessible and engaging record-breaking achievements at the heart of what we do; and our IT system must cater for this… the industry knowledge, AWS accreditations and courage to find new solutions to old problems from the Ensono team were crucial in why we chose to continue the partnership. They have taken on the evolution of our business and devised a solution that caters for us not just today, but prepares us for the future as well,” said Howe.

This will be GWR’s first move to a public cloud environment.  AWS was believed to be the best solution and catered to GWR’s need for scalability.  

Looking at the larger picture, this move has highlighted the need for businesses of every size and across every industry to adapt and prepare themselves for the changing digital landscape.  For the continued growth of businesses across sectors, it is vital that IT systems remain flexible and can readily adapt to the changing market.

And finally…

We have two passions at Ignite Digital Talent….great recruitment done properly and tech!  Every so often we are blessed with a news story that combines the two! So to sign off this week, we’ll leave you with this little gem!

Amazon scrapped ‘sexist AI’ tool

According to a Reuters report, online giant Amazon has been forced to ditch a “sexist” algorithm that was being tested as an internal recruitment tool.  

It has been claimed that the artificial intelligence system was trained on data submitted by applicants over a 10-year period, much of which came from men.

Reuters was told by members of the team working on it that the system effectively taught itself that male candidates were preferable.

The report itself has been based on information from five members of the team who developed the machine learning tool in 2014.  They disclosed that the system was intended to review job applications and give candidates a score ranging from one to five stars.

In the report, one of the engineers stated that “They (Amazon) …wanted it to be an engine where… it will spit out the top five (resumes), and we’ll hire those”.

According to the report though, it subsequently became clear that the system was not rating candidates in a gender-neutral way, mainly due to the fact that it was built on data accumulated from the male-dominated CVs submitted to the firm.   Furthermore, Reuters was told that the system even started to penalise CVs which included the word “women”. The program was adapted to make it neutral to the term. According to those developers interviewed, however, it became clear that the system could not be relied upon.

Despite the fact that the system has since been abandoned, the report claims that it was used for a period by recruiters who looked at, but never “relied” upon the tolls generated by it.  

Amazon has not commented on the claims, other than to confirm that its current global workforce is split 60:40 toward males.  

It is not the first time doubts have been raised about how reliable algorithms trained on potentially biased data will be.  AI looks to disrupt the recruitment industry in the coming years…Google for Jobs is just the tip of the iceberg. The industry at large shall need to maintain a human touch point to its work if we are to fulfil our professional obligations surrounding diversity in the workplace.  

At Ignite Digital Talent, we are committed to providing superb candidates and clients with a personal recruitment experience; one that goes above and beyond automation and “batch” working.  Maybe you are looking for help with filling your latest tech, digital or data role? Or perhaps you are looking to make your next career move? We’d love to help you.

Get in touch with our knowledgeable, industry respected (and very much human!) team today! 

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