5 Disruptive Fintech Services

2005 gave rise to a new technology that would take the financial sector by storm. Fintech was the buzzword of that year, with companies either uttering it out of fear or jubilation at what was to come. This breakthrough in technology saw technologists in t-shirts and jeans competing with the suits in the highly corporate banking sector to offer the same services at a fraction of the cost. Consequently, Fintech services are changing how many industries conduct their business, from loans to investments and so much more.

1. E-commerce

Imagine a scenario where you need to urgently buy a home appliance but you do not have the full amount at once. Your options are to either take a loan or go to the store and pay for the goods at unfathomable interest rates. Some B2B Fintech companies have come up with an innovative solution to this. They enable online retailers to instantly offer monthly repayment plans for goods at checkout, on a shopper’s existing credit card. This bears no risk to the seller as customers use their current credit cards. Also, breaking up payments into smaller installments attracts more customers to you and your net sales will increase. Fintech services such as these are proving to be quite disruptive to the market.

2. Money Transfer

In this digital age, it’s no longer a viable option to have to wait days or even weeks to send money overseas, nor can you incur such high costs. Without banks as the middle man, Fintech companies have come up to fix this problem by offering affordable rates for sending money and also fast transfers – in a matter of minutes! Send money in your currency and the recipient receives it in their currency.

3. Loans

Let’s face it, paying off loans is not a bed of roses. Half of the time, you do not know what your repayment rate it and the other time, you spend dreading to go to the bank to repay your loan or even find out how much you need to pay. Fintech companies like CommonBond have come up with an innovative way to help students get out of this fix. What they do is pay off the borrower’s lender and then deal with the students at a more personal level. This works well the borrowers as they are assured of the whole repayment, and the borrowers can easily get all the information they need about their loans.

CommonBond also offers other services such as funding students in need and helping them identify job opportunities.

4. Mobile Payment

So you are a small business and have no idea how to go about receiving payments from your customers. How are you ever going to consolidate all those payments? Well, not to worry, Fintech companies are now helping small businesses operate like large companies all from the comfort of your tablet or phone. They let you accept both card and cash payments once a customer has browsed your products, chosen what to buy and is at checkout. The customer then proceeds to receive a receipt either physically by mail or printed.

5. Investment

Have you watched one of those movies whereby you see stock traders huddled in a room trading and making lots of money from it? There are several Fintech companies that enable you to trade via their platform from your laptop or phone. What’s better is that they give you information on trading trends at the click of a button so you can have information on all the stocks you are trading and users can slowly build their portfolio.

Conclusion

Fintech is definitely here to stay. The rise of Fintech services is sure to grow in the next couple of years and will see many businesses adopting Fintech services due to their accessibility, low cost, and efficiency. This is good news for both business owners and customers as they will be able to offer their services and goods at reduced costs.








Going Beyond Bitcoin: Revolutionary Applications Of Blockchain

If you’ve heard the word Blockchain mentioned in conversation, you probably have heard it been used synonymously with Bitcoin. Well, that is not the case. Bitcoin is essentially only an application that is built on the blockchain platform. Blockchain, more impressively, is a secure, distributed and shared database on which various applications, not only digital currency, can be built.

If you are wondering what some of these applications are, this article will give you a few that will have you thinking outside the box.

Digital Identity

The world today is at a great risk of digital insecurity. It is estimated to cost the digital security industry about $18.5 annually. Managing digital identities could be made both efficient and secure by Blockchain technologies, thus reducing cases of fraud.

Whether it is banking, healthcare, citizenship documentation, national security or retailing, the adoption of Blockchain technologies would be beneficial. This is because they are based on digital signatures and irrefutable identity verification based on public key cryptography.

Distributed Cloud Storage

Before, the only way to share a digital document with another person was to send it to them and ask them to make revisions on it. This scenario would create a lengthy back and forth between the people concerned as one had to wait until the other person was done editing and sending the document so as to view it.

That is how databases work today. Even in banks! They briefly lock access while they make a transfer and then update the other side and finally reopen access to update. This process is not very efficient. Imagine if the database can be accessed concurrently and a single version of it is always available.

Smart Contracts

What would you say if someone told you that you could significantly slash your mortgage rate? Ridiculous, right? At least not in the current economy. Wrong! The use of smart contracts is increasingly drawing near. Smart contracts are simply digitized contacts that are entered by the Blockchain that is automated and can self-execute.

The current norm is bringing in a third party to execute a contract rather than trusting one central authority. Companies such as Rootstock and Ethereum are trending in this area.

Online Voting

Whenever the topic of Online voting is brought us, there is a general sense of apprehension. This is because many think that it is sufficiently insecure. The adoption of online voting can be made more acceptable through the use of Blockchain technology. This is because is it transparent and immutable in nature.

In 2014, the Liberal Alliance, a Danish political party became the first major political party to adopt Blockchain technology for internal voting. Other organizations around the world have expressed interest and we will, in the near future see it being actualized. An added advantage is that the implementation of Blockchain technology for voting should increase the number of voters per region.

Tracking Taxpayer Money

Blockchain technologies can be used to track money including students loans and international aid. It has potential to be used also to manage the distribution of grants as this has proven to be rather complex. Blockchain will make this easier as it is accessible to both parties, thus solving the problem at hand.

Record Keeping

When you buy something online from a site, you get a digital receipt, closely resembling a physical one. Imagine if you could integrate all your receipts from all your spending into one Blockchain. All your data can be verified without a third party and it will all be immutable and unforgeable. The best thing about it? All your records are automatically timestamped.

Most of these applications are still in development phase and the full extent of Blockchain capabilities has yet to be unearthed. The bottom lone is that Blockchain is here to stay and is transforming how we, as a society, function.

The purpose of Techstars’ Worldwide Entrepreneur Network is to help entrepreneurs succeed. Check out the impact of the Techstars’ network over the past 10 years.








Top Fintech Companies In The Nordic Region

In the last few months, I have been paying closer attention to Fintech scene in the Nordics. Not surprisingly, The Nordic region is the second largest Fintech community in Europe. It closely follows the UK, having raised an estimated 150 million dollars in venture funding in 2015. The Nordic region consists of Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Here are but a few Fintech companies that top the list of the Nordic region’s most notable.

1. Klarna

Based: Stockholm, Sweden

Founders: Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Niklas Adalberth, and Victor Jacobsson

Founded: 2005

Raised:$ 291.3 million

This Swedish Fintech company provides online payment services for storefronts. Their business model involves letting customers “buy” goods from online stores by simply inputting their postcode and email. The buyer then gets notified to fill in payment and delivery details, while Klarna pays the seller. Klarna later claims the money from the buyer. This differs from other online retail companies in that Klarna bears the risk, taking it away from the seller and buyer. Klarna handles about 40% of all e-commerce sales that take place in Sweden.

2. Izettle

Based: Stockholm, Sweden

Founders: Jacob de Geer, Magnus Nilsson

Founded: 2010

Raised:$ 244 million

This is a Fintech company that offers its services primarily for small businesses. Its aim is to democratize and simplify payments. It also offers services such as point of sales, partners applications, and payments. Notably, it was the first company to develop a chip-card reader and an app for use by smartphone users. Not only can this be used in the Nordic region but globally too as it meets international standards.

3. Meninga

Based: Reykjavik, Iceland.

Founders: Georg Ludviksson

Founded: 2009

Raised:$ 6.5 million

Meninga’s aim is to transform the way banks and advertisers use transaction data. It builds personal finance management tools to sell to banks who then give to their customers. It has worked with banks worldwide, having a consumer base of over 40 million. The main tools they work with are big data, operational benchmarking, analytics and predictive models.

4. Tink

Based: Stockholm, Sweden

Founders: Daniel Kjellén, Fredrik Hedberg

Founded: 2012

Raised:$ 14.17 million

Tink is a free app that helps users manage their finances. What’s amazing about it that rather than having to manually input all your financial data into the app, Tink can automatically sync with your financial services. It is able to categorize and analyze your spending over a period of time. They also offer the service of paying your bills and inter-bank transfers. Tink has over 35,000 users in Sweden and is now expanding to cover all of Europe.

5. Trustly

Based: Stockholm, Sweden

Founders: Carl Wilson, Joel Jakobsson, Lukas Gratte

Founded: 2008

Raised:$ 30 million

Trustly offers solutions for online Banking ePayments by use of its direct payments technology. The customer simply passes his banking credentials to Trustly, who makes purchases on their behalf. It assumes most of the risk from the customer or store. The company’s online payment solutions were implemented in over 800 stores in Europe and reaching more than 67 million consumers in 2016.

6. BehavioSec

Based: Lulea, Sweden

Founders: Olov Renberg

Founded: 2007

Raised:$8.2 million

BahavioSec is definitely a company to watch out for. It uses biometric security that allows banks to tells who you are just by how to type, move your mouse or touch your phone. This is taking it a notch higher compared to the usual fingerprint and retinal scans that we are used to seeing. They have offices throughout Europe and even in Hong Kong.

7. Auka

Based: Oslo, Norway

Founders: Daniel Döderlein

Founded: 2010

Raised:$ 11.5 million

Auka was originally known as mCash but rebranded to Auka. It built a payment app that allows people to pay their friends or even stores from their phones or tablets. It works hand in hand with Norway’s second-largest bank and has about 500,000 customers in the country.

Conclusion

Also, the Fintech space has clearly grown and is booming in the Nordic Region, in the future, it would be good to see an expansion into and collaboration with the global Fintech ecosystem. More and more Fintech startups are emerging just from Copenhagen region alone.

This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

At Startup Weekend Copenhagen, together with a dedicated team of local organizers, we are organizing FinTech Edition in March 2017. Visit our webpage for more information. Also feel free to drop us a line copenhagen@startupweekend.org or tweet @cphsw








A Beginners Guide To Blockchain

If you have spent some time in the tech ecosystem, or have a couple of nerds for friends, you probably have heard of the word Blockchain. For many, the concept of Blockchain remains elusive although it is relatively very simple.

What exactly is Blockchain?

Simply put, Blockchain is a ledger that can be publicly accessed where transactions are recorded and anonymously confirmed. To elaborate this, let’s take a look at how money is transacted. Before technologies such as Blockchain were available, companies and businesses relied on institutions such as banks and government to ensure certainty and trust. These institutions acted as intermediaries. Authentication and record keeping was essentially the work for middlemen to perform.

Now, imagine a situation where you are trading digital assets such as stocks, money and intellectual property, which are basically files in a database. This could lead to spending the same unit of value more than once (known as the double spending problem). Well, blockchain solves this problem by eliminating the need for third-party intermediaries such as banks.

Now you are probably wondering why the name Blockchain. A blockchain contains a list of ordered records known as blocks. Each of these blocks contains a timestamp and is linked to the previous block, forming a chain. Once data is entered into a block and is recorded, it cannot be retroactively altered. This makes blockchain secure by design. A blockchain can be accessed by many people from different computers and locations at the same time, while still maintaining its independence, transparency, and permanency.

Blockchains are not simply stored on a person’s computer, regardless of how large it is or how much memory space, it has. Bitcoin, for example, has its chain managed by several distributed nodes, which have a copy of the entire blockchain. Copies and access are all distributed and updated through these nodes. Thus you cannot have a situation where all data is erased from one single source.

Bitcoin and Blockchain: What is the relation?

It has been said that Blockchain is to Bitcoin, what the internet is to email. Bitcoin first broke the ice in 2008, authored in a white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto. It basically spelled out in detail, an innovative peer-to- peer system that did not need an intermediary, such that online payments were transferred directly. As much as Bitcoin was revolutionary and widely spoken about, it was quickly realized that the real treasure was not the cryptocurrency itself (Bitcoin) but the platform is was build upon.

Bitcoin is only one of over seven hundred applications that are currently using blockchain technology. Bitcoin, as we see, is a digital currency, and despite the name, does not manifest in actual coins. This brought about a new view of ownership of currency. You do not literally have a physical thing in your hand to trade with nor is it in your bank account. You simply transfer ownership to someone else by creating a record in the blockchain.

Is blockchain going to transform the way we carry out transactions?

There is no doubt about it. Blockchain is a highly anticipated disruptive technology that will change the world. The most exciting thing is that we haven’t even used it to its full potential yet, nor can we even grasp the magnitude of its reach. Blockchain is revolutionizing the internet, from being an internet of information, where people can easily and instantly communicate with each other across all borders, to the internet of value, meaning that people can instantly trade assets.

Blockchain is set to cause a disruption in several industries that rely on intermediaries, such as academia, real estate, healthcare, insurance, finance, banking and the public sector – just to name a few. Although it will probably render in some of the workforce redundant by technology, it will greatly benefit the economy as a whole.








Shining as a Developer at Startup Weekend

 

This is a Guest Blog from Techstars Alumni, Amandeep Midha, who also is a Startup Weekend Veteran. He shares his experience from both participating at Startup Weekend and being part of the Techstars accelerator with Barclays in New York City.


Who is ERNIT ?

Ernit is a Danish Fintech company aims to teach children about money through the ingenious combination of a physical piggy bank and accompanying app. The app allows kids to save digital money and allocate amounts of their choosing to particular goals, while the piggy bank helps them to track the progress they make

 

What is Techstars ?

Techstars is a global ecosystem that, in association with Barclays bank, helps entrepreneurs build their business by offering accelerators, venture capital, community programs and an enormous network to the startups they deem worthy of attention and capable of success. Techstars is also a parent organization of Startup Weekend family

 

Journey Through Techstars Accelerator:

Techstars Accelerator is 13 week long program after careful selection of 1% success rate among startups that are picked from across the globe. The unique part of Barclays Techstars accelerator was that it was Fintech Accelerator Program run right from the heart of New York with plenty of mentors, innovation staff from Barclays and other financial institutions available to mentor the participating startups. While first week is general bootstrapping, 2nd and 3rd week are what is called mentor madness where over the period of work day over 50 mentors visit us all in 2 weeks and the speed dating that follows us to find mutual perfect match and a startup can pick 4-6 mentors for themselves. Techstars also emphasizes on weekly OKR ( Object Key Results ) and KPI metrics which keep the whole operation in motion at a pace while being in accelerator can sound like being in B-school and in full-time job at the same time

We all then adjust ourselves to these KPIs, pick specific goals in weekly OKR sheet and then go all the way in achieving those, and these goals can be as specific as possible e.g. publishing the app with 3 new features and having 75 people signed up, to quote an example. Details of my engineering notes I had published earlier at  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/engineering-notes-techstars-crafting-worlds-first-piggy-arora as we developed ERNIT all around in fintech, IoT, platform dimensions and led the path of adoptions with various other tools, dashboards, and KPIs. Coming from a Startup Weekend hackathons regular, I would say it was 10+ weeks of hackathon with surprising amount of code being added and features delivered in extremely short time to compare otherwise

 

How to Shine as a Developer in 54 hours:

As a developer participating in Startup Weekend, it can be real fun and enriching experience

Counting on my experience, I can offer the following suggestions:

  • Always Pitch Something

It does not matter if you come prepared to pitch a topic or not, just recollect any hiccup in your daily lives, offer to build a solution for it and see if your thoughts align with rest of people. How to test that solution or validate the problem that you propose to solve? Just by pitching it. As they say “The person who stands for nothing, falls for anything”

  • Wardrobe Readiness

During Startup Weekend, the only wardrobe developer needs to care about is her/his multiple hats. Make sure you wear those thinking of designer, customer, growth hacker, UX analyst and maybe more hats that you can think of!

  • Manage Your Time Well

The 54 hour format gives little room for something concrete product to build upon, yet at the begin itself you could sense the mood of pitches, theme of the event e.g. Fintech , and study something prior from common problems and possible solutions you could be coding to build out during this weekend. While you may still be waiting for team to conceretize coding task for you, yet this is time you could use to utilize and setup Startup Weekend perks and have the DevOps ready for team communication e.g. Website, Slack channel, or Team Facebook Group and move along

  • Try Something New & Learn Together

Startup Weekend is great place and time to try out something new that you have not tried before. For example, I would have used Facebook Graph APIs with Javascript and in one hackathon where two more developers in team knew Python but not Facebook APIs, we decided to do Python coding for Facebook APIs and it was learning for all

  • Challenge the Status Quo

Easier said than done, this is I expect from any developer to use this skill at the time of sleepy hours. You will be working late often past midnight both on Friday and Saturday and when you find your team members low on energy, that is time you can be little nasty or condescending towards business idea for which you are coding. If done in moderation, it helps keeping team members awake and fresh thought process always in circulation and you have always something more to do than you can handle

  • Don’t shy away from User Interviews

While working as developer professionally, you may hardly get a chance to make user interviews with your team lead or UX person. Startup Weekend gives you complete recipe and experience that you do not miss out on any stage and wear a different hat and have your little walk-of-pride

  • Look Around & Make Friends

I could be no-nonsense hyper-professional at my workplace, but I know Startup Weekend is the place where I express more and make more friends while discussing business objectives, goal setting for set of hours, having those beer and coffee meetings with whole team or sub-team and keep things in motion

If there is some other team working on other area of interest to you, go ahead and approach them and help them as well if you can afford apart from your time with your team. There are no hard & fast rules and all of us are looking to learn and contribute

  • Mentoring Feedback Updates

Mentoring feedback during Startup Weekend could cause significant changes in solution than earlier, be prepared for those in advance and have that conversation from your co-developers or event organizers if you wish to. Agility to amend solutions based on feedback is rare skill and there is no better time to practice it other than being at Startup Weekend yourself

  • Karma whether you believe or not

Be prepared if you get caught in a team where things may not be good, there may not be teamwork, or someone just wants to take advantage of your skills to concept proof something for him/her. Either you should have quit that team on Friday evening itself, but do not loose yourself in agony and just keep doing and building what you are awesome at and make it good learning experience for yourself. When the time comes for final pitches on Sunday afternoon, everyone will know whose contribution to team has been most, and there are always recruiters and other people who definitely won’t miss out your awesomeness

  • Life After Startup Weekend

Even if you do not win, most of individual journeys still do not end with Startup Weekend. I still cherish some of my best friends whom I met at such hackathons. A creative burst and refreshing zest of developer life that I enjoy with those buddies is extremely special long after the event is over.


About the Author:

Amandeep Midha

Amandeep is Vice President of Engineering at ERNIT and also he was the  first employee to join ERNIT early 2016 after coming from unique experience of working in small to large software organizations across Europe and Asia. As passionate Fintech hacker at multiple international hackathons, at Startup Weekend Amandeep had participated over 5 times and he recounts his experience refreshing every time. Currently he is part of body of Nordic Startup Weekend organizers and provides technical assistance to Startup Weekend participants








Gaming wars: Augmented reality vs. virtual reality

Technology is growing and dynamically changing rapidly; particularly in the gaming industry, more things are possible today in contrast to during the 90s no matter how best we tried to make it happen. Flash forward today, some of the most creative inventions are emerging to the frontline of the technology industry through Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Even though my interest lies in B2B solutions, we really can’t ignore the gaming industry and what the future holds for gaming consumers.

Augmented and virtual reality both have one thing in common. They both have the unimaginable ability to alter our perception of the physical world. Where they differ, however, is the perception of our presence. What I mean by that is, when it comes to gaming, Virtual Reality overrules Augmented Reality. Even though the latter is more successful than the former in the commercial industry.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite game was Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. Remember the game? Let us discuss a simple scenario based on that game in a AR/VR setting. You’re a soldier and you are required to make it across a military designated island base, further into enemy lines to retrieve some information. The developer can not only create the entire island to a specification but also add hindrances and obstacles along the way, for examples, exploding barrels, vehicles that are subject to bullet damage and explode, anything you can basically think of.

However, in augmented reality all that level of control is gone, poof! Take that game developed for instance, and immerse it in AR, as you play you constantly have to be mindful not to knock thongs down or hit actual walls of your rooms. This without a doubt is a bummer, one would have to design a real physical world, maybe outside for them to incorporate a game like this one, but then you will need huge amounts of space to play role playing games and military campaign games. That‘ll probably suck!

AR is good for plenty, but just not traditional games

That fact that control of the environment had been removed, puts augmented reality in a disadvantage. Sure you can talk to people on social media while taking a walk in the mornings or evenings down the street, that’s 100% okay, innovative and super but in gaming, AR just got a zero score. Games and stories pretty much require control and AR cannot afford it (yet). No one like revolving about the same spot 10-15 times in different games – unless you are a Pokemon fan who like to stay in one place all day long.

In games where you require a lot of creativity like strategy games then AR would cruise through without much value added, just not the traditional story based games. Another example of a great use of augmented reality: a visual task that doesn’t really need to progress or change as you use it.

Remember all the startup ideas you heard about skill sharing? Maybe it’s time to step up the game. One case could be people building PCs, AR provides the opportunity for tutors and tech-savvy individuals to share info about where which piece will go into a certain slot, or plumbing services how to fix the sink pipes. To add another example, you could teach someone how to play piano better by projecting onto the keys how to make that wonderful note like the famous Beethoven. In many fields, except gaming that is, this tech could quite literally transform everything.

Case-closing

To whoever will win this argument in the future, the answer could probably be based on one’s perception. But in the near future, VR will probably become the most dominant form of gaming, because simply the technology developing it is highly advanced than AR. However, as AR mechanics are improved, remember they are much younger than VR, in the coming years, we will likely see more successes. Indeed there could be room for both in the near future.

This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn.








The Mobile Industry Evolving

Not so long ago, mobile phones were the platform of the future. Back in 2004, Nokia was the reigning market leader in terms of sold units, the iPhone did not exist and media messaging and cameras on phones were exciting capabilities. It’s fascinating how much the market has changed in recent years and advanced systematically.

Of late, there’s been a lot of talk about virtual reality, and micro gaming industry (casino and betting) have fished opportunities by launching various prototypes like the VR Roulette. Since VR technology allows for the immersive experience it became a sensation quick. Various headsets are available for purchase, and consumers will “terraform” the market.

Much similar to the mobile industry, segmentation of immersive reality will take place determined by the wants and needs of different consumers. E.g. hardcore gamers will be likely to embrace the Oculus Rift, a VR headset, to provide the most stunning and powerful 3D experience. On the flipside, powerful hardware is needed to run the headset, moreover, it has to be tethered to a PC. This is not appealing.

For the casual game player, the Samsung Gear, is more suitable and is cable free but only exclusively compatible with the Samsung phone, therefore it is limiting. Without a doubt, it is a diabolical ploy to get people to upgrade their phones or purchase the company’s phones.

From the development and content perspective, understand which devices will appeal to certain gamers is very critical, making it is essential to develop content relevant and applicable, capable of harnessing the power of the device fully.

Many companies are still toddlers in immersive reality, but not for long since the market is quickly gaining momentum and customer engagement is becoming more familiar, making content targeting possible and easier.


Another exciting technology, with the power to cause some tremors up, is augmented reality or AR. Most will be bewildered to know that the AR concept has been around longer even over a century, in 1901 the author L. Frank Baum spoke of the idea of an electronic display/spectacles that superimposes images onto real life. Only recently has it made advancements.

Consumer products research teams have been utilizing AR for sales purposes, to display these products to prospective clients. For example, a cabinet sales representative can’t bring a 6ft, heavy cabinet to a client’s office boardroom for a sales meeting, instead AR is used to showcase the product in 3D, what better way to showcase the product? Also, soft-drink companies like Coca-Cola use AR when selling to retailers.

Augmented reality has the potential to enhance the world we live in massively. But like many technologies, it has to become ubiquitously available for everyone, before it can be appointed on platforms like online gaming. When this becomes evident happen, AR will have the potential to deliver a richer gaming experience but it’s an exciting prospect.

When you combine AR and VR together, remarkable creations come to life, the Microsoft HoloLens, a device cleverly combining augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) with the real world, a triple bonanza of some sort. The headset is of high quality and impressive resolution. Moreover, it’s fully wireless no wired connections to a PC is required.

However, challenges, such as loss of privacy, are emerging but this technology is exhilarating. Imagine a future where you person go about your daily activities, like taking the bus and going to the retail store, but not physically but through a set of unique glasses, all your entire experience heightened by adverts, games, communication, etc.

What’s become conspicuous in these few years is that we are no longer talking about the mobile platform as just the latest device. Wearables devices like the HUDs and HWDs are now extending their grasp on the mobile platform, and they possess the ability to greatly influence the communications industry.

Whether it is AR or VR, or something revolutionary to be discovered, new technologies are often dynamic and advancing. Therefore mass adoption is key, as we have observed with the mobile industry, and consumers will ultimately dictate the success of these potentials. With futuristic headsets on sale to the public, it’s just a matter of time before they go mainstream.








Virtual Reality in Healthcare

A good number of people are familiar with the term ‘virtual reality’ but are not really informed about its uses. Gaming is what often comes to mind when virtual reality application as is discussed, but there is a whole platform of uses for virtual reality. Some of which are more challenging and/or unusual than others.

VR provides many more uses than first realized that range from academic and research through to engineering, design, business, the arts, and entertainment.

However, virtual reality produces a set of data which is then used to develop new models, communication, interaction and training methods irrespective of its use. In many ways, VR has endless possibilities.

The only stumbling blocks being costs, time coupled with technological limitations. Virtual reality systems are usually expensive and consume time in developing it. Plus there are ergonomics-related issues, specifically the need to designing user-friendly systems and systems unlikely to cause problems e.g. motion sickness.

But if these problems are countered, then there is an exciting, highly possible future for virtual reality.

Virtual Reality in Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the huge adopters of virtual reality, which entails surgery simulation, robotic surgery, phobia treatment, and skills training.

An advantage of this technology is that healthcare professionals are given the opportunity to learn new skills as well as refresh their existing ones in a safe environment. Moreover, it allows this without risking or causing harm to the patients.

  • Human simulation software

 

A good example of a simulation software is the HumanSim system which enables medical practitioners like doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to interact with their fellow counterparts in an interactive environment. There they can engage in training scenarios or drills in which they have to interact with a patient within a 3D environment. Surgeons can also project 3-D images of various organs in a bid to aid in locating the root problem. This is an immersive experience which aims to measure the participants’ emotions through a series of sensors.

  • Virtual reality diagnostics

 

Virtual reality has often been used as a diagnostic tool enabling doctors to arrive at a diagnosis in conjunction with other tools such as MRI scans. This overrules the need for invasive procedures or surgery, which may uncomfortable or detrimental to the patient.

  • Virtual robotic surgery

 

VR is gaining popularity in advanced robotics and particularly in robotic surgery. This is basically surgery performed by use of a robotic device, controlled by a surgeon, which often reduces time and complication risks.

Virtual reality has been also been employed in training and, in the field of remote telesurgery (surgery being performed by the surgeon at a separate location from the patient).

The main characteristic of this form is force feedback as the surgeon should be able to gauge the pressure amount required to use when performing a certain delicate procedure. But an issue has emerged of time delay or latency which is a serious concern in addition to being consequential. Any delay even a fraction of a second to the surgeon feels abnormal and may interrupt the procedure.

Robotic surgery and other issues relating to virtual reality and medicine can be found in the virtual reality and healthcare section. This section contains a list of individual articles which discuss virtual reality in surgery etc.

More Examples of VR use in Healthcare include;

  1. In Medicine
  2. Applications in dentistry
  3. Provides a platform for nursing and hospital care
  4. In specialized surgery, like eye surgery, brain surgery or neurosurgery
  5. Virtual reality uses in therapies
  6. Treatment of individual phobias i.e. arachnophobia and claustrophobia. Patients diagnosed with phobias can use VR to their advantage in managing these phobias on their own at their own pace.
  7. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment for patients experiencing such.
  8. In treatment for autism
  9. In health related issues like metabolism, VR can also be applied
  10. Virtual reality for the disabled, where they are taught how to cope up with the situation in the real world through a VR-type simulation, examples include voice activated software and virtual worlds have been developed with the objective of helping disabled persons adjust to the actual world by navigating themselves in the virtual world.







Inspirational Challenges from Maersk

Guest blog from our partner, Maersk, who are making Startup Weekend Copenhagen Virtual and Augmented Reality possible. Maersk will join us throughout the weekend. Saturday as mentors and Sunday as Jury.

Together with Maersk @maerskstartups we have identified some pains and problem, that they think we can work on together with either a VR or AR solution.


Maersk is the largest container shipping company in the world. With hundreds of ships and tens of thousands of containers moving around everyday we have equipment, people, and countries sailing with us in very extreme environments. To do this, we need to always look at how to be smarter in running our business.

First, do you wear Nike shoes? If so, they probably came to you in a Maersk container. We feed, clothe, and create business for millions of people around the world ‘simply’ by moving around boxes. The problem? Moving boxes isn’t that simple after all. It can be dangerous, it is expensive, and a lot of people are relying on us.

Second, was your home warm this morning? If so, it’s possible that your energy came from gas produced in the Danish North Sea from Maersk Energy’s operations. We know it’s dangerous work, and we know that any mistake can have a huge environmental impact. That’s why safety for people and the environment are always our biggest priority. Here are some ways you can help us be safer and more efficient in our operations:

Increasing automation and remote control of our ships, ports, rigs, and platforms increases the need to control interfaces and display of information. How can AR and VR be used as an interface to control large machines in the middle of the ocean?

Maintenance means downtime, and downtime is costly, but it’s also expensive and a safety risk to send specialists out to sea by ship or helicopter. How can we get the best eyes and brains on our assets without putting bodies out there?

We want less people exposed to dangerous places. How can AR and VR enable training both onshore and offshore, on-demand, if or when it becomes relevant?

Data is heavy. How can we use AR and VR to evolve the Maersk business knowing that connectivity offshore is not reliable but to use AR and VR we need to transfer data?

Data is complicated. How can AR and VR help us visualize data in a new way to make better decisions?

 

We are hoping to inspire each other with real problem and great solutions. We are not just in for the weekend, but for the long haul, so hopefully this will be the the first step for us to discover the potential for the future.








Augmented Reality: The Basics

What is Augmented Reality?

Most often we are synonymous with Virtual Reality, but there is another new kid on the block, called Augmented Reality or AR.

Whereas virtual reality immerses you in a ‘virtual’ world that exists only in the digital realm, augmented reality does the opposite, it takes the real world of the present projecting digital imagery and sound into it.

Augmented reality these days is much more sophisticated than before, there are interactive and spatially aware implementation of the concept where digital objects such as 3D models or video are outlined onto our physical view of reality as if they were really there.

How Does Augmented Reality (AR) Work?

The type of augmented reality one is most likely to encounter adopt a range of sensors (including a camera), certain computer components and a display device, much like a projector to create the illusion of virtual objects in the real world.

With the boom in smartphone popularity, which have all the necessary components, they have been the platform for most commercial augmented reality applications.

Basically, the device looks for a particular target. This can be anything, but usually, it’s just a 2D image printed on paper like a movie or music poster. Then through the camera, the augmented reality application recognizes the target and processes the image and augments it with pictures and sound. For example, you may see the poster spring to life and play a trailer for the film.

By using smart algorithms and other sensors the device can keep the augmented elements coordinate with the image of the real world.

Using a smartphone or tablet computer as a sort of “magic window” into the augmented world is one of the many ways we can use to relay this digital info to our eyes.

Applications of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality has a wide range of industrial applications, this, of course, is attributed to the rise of consumer smart devices and overall advanced computing technology developments. Augmented Reality now has lots of potential in the mainstream consumer space as well.

The two areas having the most of commercial development or influence in augmented reality are education and gaming.

In Gaming, two major mainstream video game consoles, X-box and PlayStation, have embraced and formulated augmented reality capabilities for their last two console generations.

Augmented reality mobile games are not so rare, they can be found on smartphones, tablets and handheld consoles like PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS.

The potential of augmented reality (AR) in education is being implemented in fields such as medicine where students can benefit from live 3D models. It employs the use of existing learning material (such as cardboards) as targets for augmented reality to project an in-depth image.

In medical practice augmented reality can project information directly onto the body of a patient. For example, the Veinviewer system creates the impression of a transparent skin by projecting real-time images of infrared vein scans directly onto the patient’s skin.

Military use of AR are also quite clear, soldiers wearing heads-up displays (HUDs) can see information tagged onto real world objects. Orders, radar information or any other relevant sensor data from devices on the network can be relayed. Enemy and friendly positions are significant in strategy. Augmented reality without a doubt has a bright future in military applications.

Mobile smartphones, especially the Apple brand, iPhone use augmented reality apps that allow you to observe these CGIs (computer generated images) superimposed over real world images.

In marketing and advertising augmented reality has been used as a tool for enhancing certain aspects of a product to make it more attractive and appealing to the customer which will certainly boost sales.

Conclusion

Augmented reality is likely to wiggle its way into our day to day lives frequently in the 21st Century much like Virtual Reality did in the late 20th Century, influencing various industries. Once wearable and integrating computers become more common it won’t be queer seeing people interacting with and reacting to things that seemingly aren’t there from your perspective.

Thanks to advancement in technologies such as augmented reality the way we interact with computing devices and think about the chasm between analogue/physical and digital/virtual reality is likely to change fundamentally.