Archive for Hardware

Report Says Public Cloud May Double In Just Four Years

The new cloud market report from the Synergy Research Group shows that cloud-associated markets, such as the public cloud, are growing at rates ranging from 10% to over 40% and the annual spending on the cloud may double in four years.

IaaS & PaaS Biggest Growth

Synergy’s half-yearly report shows that, across the seven key cloud service and infrastructure market segments, revenues for operator and vendors in the first half of 2019 exceeded $150 billion, which is a rise in growth of 24% from the first half of 2018.

The biggest area of growth in the cloud infrastructure sector was in the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) market segments where there was a massive 44% growth rate.  IaaS is online, virtualised computing resources over the internet, and PaaS is where a provider hosts the hardware and software on its own infrastructure with PaaS products enabling developers to build custom applications online without having to worry about data serving, storage, and management.

The Synergy report also showed growth rates of enterprise SaaS at 27%, UCaaS at 23% and hosted private cloud infrastructure services at 20%.  The report also shows that spending on cloud services is now much greater than spending on supporting data centre infrastructure.

Infrastructure Investments

In the first half of 2019, cloud service provides spent $55 billion on the hardware and software used to build cloud infrastructure (evenly split between public and private clouds).  These infrastructure investments helped cloud service providers to generate over $90 billion in revenues from their cloud infrastructure services (IaaS, PaaS, hosted private cloud services) and enterprise SaaS.

Leaders

The Synergy report shows that the leaders in the IaaS and PaaS segments in the first half of 2019 are Microsoft, Amazon/AWS, Dell EMC, Cisco, HPE and Google.  Back in February, Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) reported a massive 45% growth in the revenue of the fourth quarter, mostly fuelled by big profits in its public cloud arm.

Other big names in that market segment include Salesforce, Adobe, VMware, IBM, Digital Realty, Equinix and Rackspace.

All these big players together account for over half of all cloud-related revenues.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The public cloud is being embraced by businesses as they seek to outsource and ditch traditional capital investment and maintenance problems and costs while reaping the benefits of having the pay-as-you-go scalability, security, and outsourced expertise that allows them to free up more of their own resources.  Cloud service providers are now investing heavily to win large slices of the cloud market with Amazon and Microsoft as market leaders, and as the Synergy report shows, this investment is delivering big revenues and impressive growth rates, particularly in the IaaS and PaaS market segments.

IBM To Offer Largest Quantum Computer Available For External Access Via Cloud

IBM has announced that it is opening a Quantum Computation Centre in New York which will bring the world’s largest fleet of quantum computing systems online, including the new 53-Qubit Quantum System for broad use in the cloud.

Largest Universal Quantum System For External Access

The new 53-quantum bit/qubit model is the 14th system that IBM offers, and IBM says that it is the single largest universal quantum system made available for external access in the industry, to date. This new system will (within one month) give its users the ability to run more complex entanglement and connectivity experiments.

IBM Q

It was back in March 2017 that IBM announced that it was about to offer a service called IBM Q that would be the first time that a universal quantum computer had been commercially available, giving access to (and use of) a powerful, universal quantum computer, via the cloud.

Since then, a fleet composed of five 20-qubit systems, one 14-qubit system, and four 5-qubit systems have been made available, and since 2016 IBM says that a global community of users have run more than 14 million experiments on their quantum computers through the cloud, leading to the publishing of more than 200 scientific papers.

Who?

Although most uses of quantum computers have been for isolated lab experiments, IBM is keen to make quantum computing widely available in the cloud to tens of thousands of users, thereby empowering what it calls “an emerging quantum community of educators, researchers, and software developers that share a passion for revolutionising computing”.

Why?

The hope is that by making quantum computing more widely available, it could lead to greater innovation, more scientific discoveries e.g. new medicines and materials, improvements in the optimisation of supply chains, and even better ways to model financial data leading to better investments which could have an important and positive knock-on effect in businesses and economies.

Partners

Some of the partners and clients that IBM says it has already worked with its quantum computers include:

  • J.P. Morgan Chase for ‘Option Pricing’ – a way to price financial options and portfolios. The method devised using the quantum computer has speeded things up dramatically so that financial analysts can now perform option pricing and risk analysis in near real-time.
  • Mitsubishi Chemical, Keio University and IBM, on a simulation related to reactions in lithium-air batteries which could lead to making more efficient batteries for mobile devices or automotive vehicles.

Quantum Risk?

Back in November 2018, however, security architect for Benelux at IBM, Christiane Peters, warned of the possible threat of commercially available quantum computers being used by criminals to try and crack encrypted business data.

As far back as 2015 in the US, the National Security Agency (NSA) warned that progress in quantum computing was at such a point that organisations should deploy encryption algorithms that can withstand such attacks from quantum computers.

The encryption algorithms that can stand up to attacks from quantum computers are known by several names including post-quantum cryptography / quantum-proof cryptography, and quantum-safe / quantum-resistant cryptographic (usually public-key) algorithms.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The ability to use a commercially available quantum computer via the cloud will give businesses and organisations an unprecedented opportunity to solve many of their most complex problems, develop new and innovative potentially industry-leading products and services and perhaps discover new, hitherto unthought-of business opportunities, all without needed to invest in hitherto prohibitively expensive hardware themselves. The 14 hugely powerful systems now available to the wider computing and business community could offer the chance to develop products that could provide a real competitive advantage in a much shorter amount of time and at much less cost than traditional computer architecture and R&D practices previously allowed.

As with AI, just as new technologies and innovative services can be used for good, their availability could also mean that in the wrong hands they could be used to pose a new threat that’s very difficult for most business to defend against. Quantum computing service providers, such as IBM, need to ensure that the relevant checks, monitoring and safeguards are in place to protect the wider business community and economy against a potentially new and powerful threat.

AI Destined For McDonald’s Drive-Throughs

The acquisition of AI voice recognition start-up Apprente by the McDonalds franchise gives the restaurant chain its own Silicon Valley technology division and promises an automated ordering system for drive-throughs, self-order interfaces and the mobile app.

Apprente

Apprente is a Silicon Valley-based start-up (founded 2017, Mountain View, California) that specialises in making customer service chatbots.  Its acquisition by McDonald’s gives the restaurant chain its own AI-powered voice-based conversational system that can handle human-level interactions, thereby helping improve the speed and accuracy of orders.

It is thought that the Apprente system will not completely replace the traditional front of house staff, but may be used in mobile ordering or kiosks i.e. added to drive-through kiosks or sited nearby (and added to the mobile app) so that that food can be ordered by the customer’s voice, and transcripts of the order can be given to staff to ensure that the order is correct.  The transcript may also be presented or read to the customer when they pick the order up minutes later.  The technology may, therefore, provide time-saving, accuracy, and convenience benefits to both customers and staff.

Why?

There are a few key reasons why McDonald’s has gone down the tech route with its order taking.  These include:

  1. Competition from home delivery companies.
  2. 70 per cent of the company’s orders come through its drive-throughs but some reports show that McDonald’s may be relatively slow in getting its drive-through food orders out.  For example, a recent report (Oches’ 2019) shows that while the average wait in a Burger King drive-through is over 193 seconds, the waiting time in McDonald’s is considerably longer at 273 seconds.  McDonald’s ranked the tenth and slowest fast-food company in that report, but the addition of the voice-based conversational system could help speed things up.
  3. To give McDonald’s a technology development centre, the McD Tech Labs in Silicon Valley so that the restaurant chain can keep adding value through new technology and stay ahead in the market.

Other Acquisitions

McDonald’s has also recently acquired customer services personalisation company and AI start-up ‘Dynamic Yield’. With this deal, worth more than £240 million, McDonald’s can use the decision-logic technology to create drive-through menus tailored to its customers based on the time of the day, trends, previous choices and other factors.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For customers, the deployment of the new voice-recognition technology in addition to the Dynamic Yield (already deployed in 8,000 US drive-throughs) should make ordering food a faster and better experience.

For McDonald’s, the addition of the new technology and of a tech base in Silicon Valley to develop more of the same should help it to compete in a market that’s getting busier with companies that are using technology to reach customers and satisfy the same need for fast gratification.  The value-adding technology (combined with the fact that McDonald’s have a restaurant in most towns with a standardised and trusted product and brand) means that McDonald’s is taking steps to ensure that it stays ahead in a future where technology is an important competitive advantage in fast food delivery.   The new technology may also help McDonald’s address its current need to get orders ready more quickly and accurately while adding a novelty factor, talking point, and perceived advantage among customers.

Tesla Owners Locked Out

Some Tesla Model 3 car owners found themselves decidedly locked out in the cold due to a vital Phone Key app being down for maintenance.

Labor Day Dismay

On US Labor Day, some owners of Tesla Model 3 cars who tried to use their Phone Key app, the smartphone app that will open a Model 3 without the owner having to take the phone out of their pocket, found themselves locked out when the app didn’t work, and they hadn’t brought a physical key fob/card with them.

Net Fret

Some of the immobilized owners took to social media platforms to highlight their plight, voice their frustration and seek information.  For example, some Tesla owners on Twitter claimed to have been locked out of their cars for up to four hours whereas others reported being stranded at Supercharger stations and plugged in longer than was necessary.

No App Trapped

The reasons why some owners of Tesla Model 3 cars were locked out appears to be the fact that they had logged out of their app, may not have been able to get a phone signal, and that the app was undergoing maintenance at the other end.

Under normal circumstances, the Phone Key should be able to operate on Bluetooth Low Energy frequencies rather than a network connection in order to communicate with the Model 3 vehicle.

Pain Again

This is not the first time that Tesla owners have experienced a lack of mobility due to being locked out by apps.  Back in 2018, after media control unit replacements and a problem with digital certificate transferral, some owners found themselves in the same frustrating situation of being temporarily refused entry to their own cars.

Not Hard If You Bring Your Card

The Tesla Manual states that the Model 3 comes with two physical key cards for entry and operation that can be used when a phone is not accessible, out of battery, or if someone else needs temporary access to the Model 3 e.g. a valet. Those owners who were temporarily stranded by the app failure appear not to have brought either of their key cards with them.

Electric Blues

All this comes at a time when Tesla is facing competition from the likes of Harley-Davidson which has just announced that it’s taking pre-orders for its first all-electric motorcycle, the LiveWire.  The LiveWire can cover 110 miles on a single charge and can go from zero to 60 in just 3.5 seconds.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is clearly an embarrassing incident for a company that has a technological focus for its vehicles, and where the price reflects the early-curve electronic vehicle development – Model 3s starting at around £37,000.

This story is also an example of the potential dangers of relying too much on technology and apps to run every aspect of our lives going forward.  Even though Tesla does provide physical key cards that could have helped those stranded drivers, human error (not reading the manual and / or forgetting to bring one) played a part, as it often does, in errors involving the human and technology combination.  Also, the use of interconnected technologies i.e. the reliance upon some kind of Internet/Bluetooth connection to enable the app to work correctly shows how today’s newest smart services still have a heavy reliance upon the existing communications infrastructure.

Four-Year Lifespan For Self-Driving Cars

As large car manufacturers seek to reinvent themselves as ‘mobility companies’ in an effort to compete for global leadership in the growing autonomous driving sector, a Ford Executive has predicted that self-driving cars will only last four years.

Only Four Years?

The prediction of four-year lifespan for self-driving cars came from John Rich, the operations chief of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, in a recent interview with the Telegraph.

Why Four Years?

The idea that a driverless car will only last four years stems from the fact that these cars will be part of fleets that have continuous use and will, therefore, wear out more quickly.  Even though this may appear to indicate that car companies could make more money by selling new car replacements after only four years, this is not necessarily so because car manufacturers appear to envisage a future where they will become fleet operators that sell us fewer cars.

Mobility Company

Mr Rich’s prediction fits in with the idea that traditional car manufacturers such as Ford and Toyota say that they’re aiming to become ‘mobility companies’ that operate fleets of autonomous/driverless vehicles for other companies to use.  This could include the car manufacturers hiring the fleets out themselves, supplying the fleets for other companies to hire out, and getting involved in ventures with other operators.  For example, Toyota and Chinese autonomous driving company Pony.ai have recently teamed up in a US$600 million joint venture to explore mobility services and to help Toyota to become a major mobility company in China. Also, Pittsburgh start-up Argo AI is reported to be developing driverless cars for Ford and is testing the technology in five cities in the US.

The move by Ford and other manufacturers towards becoming mobility companies with autonomous fleets will see them compete directly with operators such as Uber.

Decline In Private Ownership

The prediction and vision from market analysts is that there will be a decline in private car ownership and the costs associated with that as consumers will prefer to use the widely available fleets of autonomous vehicles operated by the new mobility companies.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Traditional car manufacturers appear to see their future as mobility companies in a world where they and other businesses operate fleet services of widely available autonomous vehicles to business and individual users who will no longer need to own a car themselves. This is all part of today’s car manufacturers trying to get significant peace of global (in the developed world) market for autonomous transport.  If this future vision plays out as the car manufacturers and analysts predict, this will have a dramatic effect on businesses and markets along the car supply chain as well as the private hire and public transport markets.

No Leather, Jeans, Hard Surfaces, Other Cards or Magnets – Warning for Apple Card

Just as the new ‘Apple Card’ is launched in the US, Apple has listed several surfaces and materials that could damage and discolour the coated titanium card – including denim and leather.

Apple Card

The newly launched (in the US) no fees, instant cash-back Apple Card is a partnership between Apple and Goldman Sachs with processing by Mastercard.  The Apple Card is operated through the Wallet app on iPhone (iPhone 6 and later) and is accompanied by a physical laser-etched card, made of coated titanium and with no card number, no CVV security code, and no expiration date or signature on it.

Soft Materials Are Best

Unfortunately for Apple, just as the Card’s online blurb was unveiled to the world some of the media’s attention was diverted to Apple’s advice about how to “safely” store and carry the card rather than to its security features.

Some online commentators couldn’t fail to notice that for a sleek looking, titanium card, it appears to be vulnerable to damage and discolouration from some of the ways that customers may expect to carry and store a normal plastic credit card.

For example, according to Apple’s own card-care advice, the Apple Card may be vulnerable to discolouration and damage from:

  • Storing the card in the card in a slot in a wallet or billfold touching another credit card.
  • Coming into contact with fabrics, like leather and denim, which may cause permanent discolouration that will not wash off.
  • Placing the card in a pocket or bag that contains loose change, keys, or other potentially abrasive objects.
  • Placing the Apple Card near magnets (which could de-magnetize the strip).

The Coating

Apple says on its website that it is the multi-layered coating on the card that gives the card its white finish that could be damaged or discoloured, and not the titanium card beneath.  Although titanium is a very reactive metal, it is known for its strength and its corrosion resistance in oxidising acid environments.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Some commentators see this as a gaffe by Apple as the launch of something that sees Apple make a major move into services has been slightly tarnished itself by what appears to be either a problem with the coating of the Apple Card, or Apple giving out a bit too much information about the care of the card, or a bit of both.

Expecting customers to keep the Apple Card in its own separate bag made of only soft materials may be a little unrealistic and impractical, and it remains to be seen how the card fares in the real world and what stories come from the first users of the card, and whether the card is as susceptible to damage as the Apple website appears to indicate.

This story is also an example to businesses of how attempts to differentiate products and services and to add value should be carefully thought through and tested before public launches, and products that customers are familiar with need to be at least as convenient and practical to use as competing products.

Your Password Can Be Guessed By An App Listening To Your Keystrokes

Researchers from SMU’s (Southern Methodist University) Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber-security have found that the sound waves produced when we type on a computer keyboard can be picked up by a smartphone and a skilled hacker could decipher which keys were struck.

Why?

The research was carried out to test whether the ‘always-on’ sensors in devices such as smartphones could be used to eavesdrop on people who use laptops in public places (if the phones were on the same table as the laptop) e.g. coffee shops and libraries, and whether there was a way to successfully decipher what was being typed from just the acoustic signals.

Where?

The experiment took place in a simulated noisy Conference Room at SMU where the researchers arranged several people, talking to each other and taking notes on a laptop. As many as eight mobile phones were placed on the same table as the laptops or computers, anywhere from three inches to several feet away. The study participants were not given scripts of what to say when talking, could use shorthand or full sentences when typing and could either correct typewritten errors or leave them.

What Happened?

Eric C. Larson, one of the two lead authors and an assistant professor in SMU Lyle School’s Department of Computer Science reported that the researchers were able to pick up what people were typing at an amazing 41 per cent word accuracy rate and that that this could probably be extended above 41 per cent if what researchers figured out what the top 10 words might be.

Sensors In Smart Phones

The researchers highlighted the fact that there are several sensors in smartphones that are used for orientation and although some require permission to be switched on, some are always on.  It was the sensors that were always switched on that the researchers were able to develop a specialised app for which could process the sensor output and, therefore, predict the key that was pressed by a typist.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most of us may be aware of the dangers of using public Wi-Fi and how to take precautions such as using a VPN.  It is much less well-known, however, that smartphones have sensors that are always on and could potentially be used (with a special app) to eavesdrop.

Mobile device manufacturers may want to take note of this research and how their products may need to be modified to prevent this kind of hack.

Also, users of laptops may wish to consider the benefits of using a password manager for auto-filling instead of typing in passwords and potentially giving those passwords away.

Facial Recognition at King’s Cross Prompts ICO Investigation

The UK’s data protection watchdog (the Information Commissioner’s Office  i.e. the ICO) has said that it will be investigating the use of facial recognition cameras at King’s Cross by Property Development Company Argent.

What Happened?

Following reports in the Financial Times newspaper, the ICO says that it is launching an investigation into the use of live facial recognition in the King’s Cross area of central London.  It appears that the Property Development Company, Argent, had been using the technology for an as-yet-undisclosed period, and using an as-yet-undisclosed number of cameras. A reported statement by Argent (in the Financial Times) says that Argent had been using the system to “ensure public safety”, and that facial recognition is one of several methods that the company employs to this aim.

ICO

The ICO has said that, as part of its enquiry, as well requiring detailed information from the relevant organisations (Argent in this case) about how the technology is used, it will also inspect the system and its operation on-site to assess whether or not it complies with data protection law.

The data protection watchdog has made it clear in a statement on its website that if organisations want to use facial recognition technology they must comply with the law and they do so in a fair, transparent and accountable way. The ICO will also require those companies to document how and why they believe their use of the technology is legal, proportionate and justified.

Privacy

The main concern for the ICO and for privacy groups such as Big Brother Watch is that people’s faces are being scanned to identify them as they lawfully go about their daily lives, and all without their knowledge or understanding. This could be considered a threat to their privacy.  Also, with GDPR in force, it is important to remember that if a person’s face (if filmed e.g. with CCTV) is part of their personal data, and the handling, sharing, and security of that data also becomes an issue.

Private Companies

An important area of concern to the ICO, in this case, is the fact that a private company is using facial recognition becasuse the use of this technology by private companies is difficult to monitor and control.

Problems With Police Use

Following criticism of the Police use of facial recognition technology in terms of privacy, accuracy, bias, and management of the image database, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has recently called for a temporary halt in the use of the facial recognition systems.  This follows an announcement in December 2018 by the ICO’s head, Elizabeth Dunham, that a formal investigation was being launched into how police forces use facial recognition technology (FRT) after high failure rates, misidentifications and worries about legality, bias, and privacy.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The use of facial recognition technology is being investigated by the ICO and a government committee has even called for a halt in its use over several concerns. The fact that a private company (Argent) was found, in this case, to be using the technology has therefore caused even more concern and has highlighted the possible need for more regulation and control in this area.

Companies and organisations that want to use facial recognition technology should, therefore, take note that the ICO will require them to document how and why they believe their use of the technology is legal, proportionate and justified, and make sure that they comply with the law in a fair, transparent and accountable way.

Robot Tuck Shops About To Hit U.S. College Campuses

San Francisco-based start-up, Starship Technologies, has announced that it will be putting food delivery robots that respond to phone app orders on 100 U.S. university campuses in the next 24 months.

The Bots

It has been reported that 25 to 50 of the (23Kg battery-powered, six-wheeled) Starship bots will be let loose on each campus, with the ability to roam around seven days a week, from 8 am to 2 am. The self-driving bots drive at 4 mph and use 10 cameras, radar, ultrasound sensors, GPS, computer vision and neural networks to process what they see in order to negotiate their way safely around a 4 km radius.

The bot’s cargo bay is mechanically locked during the journey and can only be opened by the customer with their smartphone app. The location of the robots is tracked, so that customer knows the exact location of their order and receives a notification at the time of arrival.

Food

The college campus robots will be delivering breakfast, snacks, and a variety of other food to students on campus.  Also, the app can take orders from local restaurants which the Starship bots will deliver to students on the campus for $1.99 per shipment, with Starship getting paid by the restaurant for making each delivery.

Benefits

The obvious benefits of the food delivery robots are that they can work whatever hours they are required all year round with no pay, no holiday and no need for breaks. Also, the Starship bots have an advantage over other local delivery services because the bots are small, manoeuvrable, know their way around the expansive campuses (thanks to pre-loaded, 3D maps), there are several bots working on one site, and they won’t need to be subject to any authorisation checks for being there.

Bigger Goals

Starship has bigger plans for the bots and is reported to have the goal of getting the bots onto college campuses across the US serving 1 million students.

Starship has also started a package delivery service in neighbourhoods and parts deliveries on business and industrial campuses using the bots.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon has been making the news over the past couple of years with its delivery drones and ‘Scout’ delivery robots, and the well-funded start-up Starship ($40 million in new funding) has shown how it has been able to move quickly into a niche and join the growing delivery robot/drone industry.  For the robot and drone operating companies (Amazon, UPS, Google, Starship) these bots offer a way to reduce costs, avoid road congestion problems, avoid labour problems, and potentially deliver 24 hours a day all year round.  Users of bot and drone services can expect convenience, greater control over orders, and the novelty and fun of the delivery experience.

The benefits of drones and robots, however, may come at the expense of jobs, more of which are being taken away by the advance of technology-fuelled automation across many industries.

Apple Launches ‘Apple Card’

Apple has launched its ‘Apple Card’ in the US in partnership with Goldman Sachs and with processing by Mastercard.

Card

The Apple Card can now be applied for by customers in the US through the Wallet app on iPhone (iPhone 6 and later).  The physical laser-etched card, which is made of titanium and has a typically clean Apple design has no card number, no CVV security code, and no expiration date or signature on it.  Although you can buy using the card, the real Apple Card product is incorporated in the Wallet on the customer’s iPhone and works through Apple Pay. Apple says that the card can be used to make purchases in stores, in apps and on websites.

Advantages

Apple says that the Apple Card is built on simplicity, transparency and privacy and that it completely rethinks everything about the credit card. The main advantages of the Apple Card are:

  • There are no fees.
  • It gives instant cashback on purchases.  When you buy something on the Apple Card, you receive a percentage of your purchase back in Daily Cash every day, there’s no limit to how much you can get, and that cash goes right onto the Apple card it can be used it just like cash. Apple says that customers will get 2 per cent Daily Cash every time they use Apple Card with Apple Pay, and 3 per cent Daily Cash on all purchases made directly with Apple, including at Apple Stores, apple.com, the App Store, the iTunes Store and for Apple services.
  • It is secure.  There are no numbers on the card itself and using Apple Card through the iPhone means that it is covered by all the usual Apple Pay security features e.g. Face ID, Touch ID, unique transaction codes.
  • It offers much greater privacy.  Apple says that it doesn’t store the details of where you shop, what you bought, or how much you paid, and Goldman Sachs will not sell or share your spending data to any third-party. Also, Mastercard simply processes payments between parties on the global network.
  • The Apple Card shows you how to pay less interest.  For example, the Apple Card shows you a range of payment options and calculates the interest cost on different payment amounts in real-time.
  • The card can help you make more informed purchase choices.  For example, everything you buy gets a category (food, entertainment, shopping) and a colour-coded chart displays how much you’ve pending on each category.

Small Print Warning

This may all sound wonderful but some commentators have warned that when you sign up for the Apple Card you sign up to the standard agreement offered by Goldman Sachs.  Within this agreement is an arbitration clause that essentially means that you waive the right to make any claims, participate in a class action, or be heard in a court at trial for anything related to the agreement.

It is, however, possible to opt-out of the Goldman Sachs arbitration clause within 90 days after opening the account by contacting the company using messages, calling a toll-free number, or writing to a Philadelphia P.O. Box (Apple Card gives full instructions).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For other banks and credit companies that are still using traditional cards, this may represent a threat, as Apple, a trusted and globally known brand is offering something that appears to be more convenient, more secure, and has obvious instant cashback perks.

For Apple, this venture is a way that it can offer value and generate even deeper loyalty with and become more attached to the lives of its customers. This creates another important competitive advantage for the tech giant and allows it to gain a deeper understanding of its customers and their habits (even though it says it won’t share any information about those habits).

This also represents an opportunity for Apple to diversify at a time when its iPhone sales have been a bit flat and move towards the provision of services as well as hardware.