High Appspectations

From “there’s an app for that” to “AI is the new electricity”: if customers’ expectations of convenient apps are high, the security requirements of banks are even higher. Bridging that gap requires the courage to allow each technology time to mature.

This tiny and smooth device, just a few inches in the diagonal but in numbers, an army of billions – this is what the extension of the human brain is supposed to be. A touch here, a swipe there and the thinking machine starts blinking and beeping. If the cerebral cortex is the outer, neuron-rich layer of the human brain, then the cellphone is its virtual skull. In 2017, almost 8 billion cellphone lines were active worldwide. In other words, in a few months, more brains will be working in hands than in heads. To begin with, the brain in the hand is just a rather stupid, naked computer, which only comes to life when it’s fed with ones and zeros. But if properly fattened, it promises to mutate into an intelligent beast. “This is more than just another industrial revolution – it is something that transcends humankind, and even biology,” explains Professor Jürgen Schmidhuber, Director of the Swiss AI lab IDSIA, who is sometimes referred to as an “AI pioneer”, and at others, the “father of artificial intelligence”. He dares to predict that in just a few years’ time, mankind will have developed an artificial intelligence that corresponds to that of animals: “Soon after we develop monkey-level AI, we may have human-level AI with truly limitless applications,” he claims.

A “new electricity”

Some experts see the broad, vague, intangible phenomenon of AI as a “new electricity” that will transform every sector of the economy. And the potential of artificial intelligence is indeed electrifying: “Here are a few AI applications that could see high demand over the next few years because of their strong visual-perception and processing capabilities,” McKinsey consultant Gaurav Batra notes in “Artificial Intelligence: The Time to Act is Now”. Governments could use AI to scan video and identify suspicious activity in public places; banks are already beginning to use AI to detect suspicious behavior, such as patterns suggestive of money laundering.

We are entering the “Age of Smart Everything”. AI also merges happily with sensors and mobile apps, which means that focusing on any one, useful application is anything but easy. Similarly, today’s mobile-first world, with its army of cellphones, provides a vital link between corporations or institutions and their customers. From the head to the hand and back: The expansion of AI technology has allowed mobile users to completely reposition the value benchmark of existing user experience. Users are beginning to expect more in-depth and predictive mobile app performance. The Age of Smart Everything also means entering the “Age of Smart Customers”.

The major challenge will be to resolve this discrepancy between the needs of the end customer on the one hand, and the requirements of the bank on the other.

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Martin Spengler, Domain Lead "Work Automation" at Appway

But as far as AI or machine learning is concerned, the divide between desire and reality is still quite deep: “Artificial intelligence that manages my financial situation after defining an individual goal, taking into account all the relevant variables ranging from my professional to my private situation and then showing me the pathway to that goal – that’s a reality we are still miles away from,” says Jürg Truniger, head of product marketing at Appway, a Zürich-based software company. Undoubtedly, customers will want to interact with banks whenever and wherever they are. Learning how to integrate with the platforms that customers use will be more important than ever for banks, as conversational interfaces and platforms, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, become more commonplace. “There are high expectations of providing access to the bank via purely digital channels, such as apps or chatbots,” says Martin Spengler, Domain Lead “Work Automation” at Appway.

One small click for man

At the same time, these expectations of functionality and service regularly collide with the security requirements of the bank. “The major challenge will be to resolve this discrepancy between the needs of the end customer on the one hand, and the requirements of the bank on the other,” believes Spengler. “At present we are still in a transition phase, with many mistakes and erroneous developments to come.”

Schmidhuber, the “father of AI”, takes this transition phase even further; he sees AI in apps and beyond as an evolutionary quantum leap. “Don’t think of humans as the crown of creation,” he says, “instead, view human civilization as part of a much grander scheme, an important step on the universe’s path toward higher complexity.” According to Schmidhuber, the time has come to take the next step – a step comparable to the invention of life itself over 3.5 billion years ago.


Smart Everything needs Smart Security

Three questions for Dr. Silke Bargstädt-Franke, Senior Vice President & Head of Product Management at Veridos

As we stand at the threshold of the “Smart Everything” era, what does this mean for the process of verifying personal identity?

In the digital age, mobile strategies and biometrics will undoubtedly play a prominent role in meeting current challenges. Identities will be verified in user-friendly, yet secure ways. We’re examining a wide variety of questions, ranging from what kinds of opportunities can biometrics offer, to what are the risks that need to be taken into consideration – all the way to the issue of how to calibrate biometrical sensors so that they provide reliable results. Here is where our core expertise comes into play: Advising our governmental clients and developing solutions with them, in order to successfully shape this next phase beyond the idea of the usual security documents.

As the “ultimate customer”, citizens’ primary demands are …

… for example, convenient, mobile, and device-free access to a secure e -government platform that provides comprehensive services, from applying for a birth certificate, to e-filing taxes, to an app for ID documents – in other words, all government–citizen interactions.

Can reality keep up with these expectations?

It will become increasingly stable as more use cases arise from government services and as we are more able to clearly communicate that these services are secure. Take Kosovo, for example: “Smart Everything” means that we have implemented an app for Kosovans that displays their driver’s licenses on their smartphones. Then the authorities can crosscheck the license with a corresponding smartphone app that accesses data in the backend system. This makes it almost impossible to forge driver’s licenses – after all, “Smart Everything” must always go hand-in-hand with “Smart Secure”.


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