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TECHNOLOGY

Tonik builds on Google Cloud to accelerate financial inclusion, open banking innovation in PH

January 12, 2022 1:11 p.m.

SINGAPORE – Tonik Digital Bank (“Tonik”), the Philippines’ first digital-only neobank, is tapping Google Cloud’s advanced platform to accelerate financial inclusion for all Filipinos.

Leveraging Google Cloud’s expertise in scalable infrastructure, application programming interface (API) management, machine learning (ML) and data analytics, the bank has taken just 10 months to become an established leader in open banking innovation and delivering next-generation financial services.

  Tonik, which is part of Singapore-headquartered fintech firm Tonik Financial Pte. Ltd., was launched in March 2021 after obtaining an initial rural bank license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Its digital platform provides core services like deposits with interest rates of up to six percent per annum.

There are also unique features for customers to create separate pockets of savings to meet specific goals over time called “Stashes,” such as affording a vacation, a college education, or accumulating an emergency fund.

“Fewer overheads from being branchless allows us to offer industry-leading interest rates that enhance Filipinos’ financial wellness, but our value proposition cannot be solely driven by lower costs. We have had to first earn the trust of consumers by investing heavily in a superior customer experience,” said Greg Krasnov, Founder and CEO, Tonik. “Google Cloud has enabled us to deliver frictionless and customer-centric services that allow Filipinos to easily embrace the financial system. This collaboration – having played an integral role in Tonik being entrusted with more than US$100 million in consumer deposits to date – will empower us to continue expanding our product portfolio and drive real societal impact across the region.”

Secure APIs Open Up New Possibilities for Consumers and Developers

  With the BSP requiring banks to conduct due diligence by verifying each customer’s identity to prevent fraud and money laundering, applying for an account traditionally involves individuals having to first visit a physical branch to present valid government-issued identification (ID) to an officer.

This makes it difficult for millions of Filipinos to open accounts or make deposits. Unlike urban cities that have bank branches or ATMs at every corner, the people in rural Philippines – who account for 52.6 percent of the total population[1] – must travel long distances and arrive before the branch closes.

  By using Google Cloud’s Apigee API Management platform to build and scale open banking APIs, Tonik could quickly integrate its mobile application with capabilities from third-party providers to make account opening and cash deposits fast, seamless and convenient.

To help Filipinos set up accounts in under five minutes – instead of hours or days, Tonik interoperates with Daon, its partner for automated customer onboarding and biometric authentication.

The process starts with Tonik asking the customer for a selfie and a scanned copy of their ID. Tonik extracts text from these images through Google Cloud’s optical character recognition (OCR) APIs and shares the information with Daon through another trusted API.

Daon then cross-checks the customer’s identity against official sources that issued the ID. This complex data flow is invisible to the user, who only needs to download the Tonik mobile application, verify their identity for account opening, and start banking.

Using APIs, Tonik also exchanges data securely with authorized ecosystem partners like 7-Eleven convenience stores and pawn shops to capture transactions in real-time. When a user makes a deposit at a 7-Eleven, which are readily available across the Philippines, they would see the completed transaction on their Tonik application and start earning interest immediately.

 “Interoperability is core to our business strategy and everything on our digital banking application is therefore API-driven,” said Arivuvel Ramu, Chief Technology Officer, Tonik. “As our architectural foundation, Google Cloud’s industry-leading Apigee API Management platform allows us to unlock new digital channels, expand our business model, and generate new revenue streams. While APIs are not new to conventional banks, they tend to be private APIs tailored for a specific partner, which means third parties cannot reuse that API. In line with our commitment toward supporting broader ecosystem innovation, we have taken the private APIs that we have developed and converted them into public APIs.”

 Third-party developers who want to create new features or services for Tonik’s ecosystem of partners and users can now reuse its public APIs to do so expeditiously. Apigee also provides a sandbox environment for developers to test and refine what they have created. Issues that would cause downtime can then be identified and rectified before the feature or service is authorized and rolled out to its intended users.

  “Customers trust us with sensitive information like demographic and transaction data. As a custodian of data and a facilitator of open banking innovation, it is imperative that we uphold the highest standards of consent management and API security. By capturing and managing customer consent on what data we are permitted to share with authorized third parties, Apigee ensures that we comply with stringent regulatory requirements like PSD2. Apigee simultaneously secures our APIs to avoid data breaches by malicious users,” said Ramu.

  Pooling Insights to Deliver Financial Wellness and Hyper Personalized Customer Experiences

  Tonik currently serves more than 190,000 customers. To further advance financial inclusion and achieve its target of growing its active customer base to a million users by December 2022, the bank has built an intelligent data lake using Cloud Storage on Google Cloud and BigQuery to provide hyper personalized customer experiences and help many Filipinos access loans for the first time.  With data generated from every event along the customer journey and residing across systems, connecting datasets and analyzing them manually is an uphill task. A cloud-based contact center software, for example, captures customer interactions and feedback across channels, while a core banking system captures deposits and withdrawals.

  By unifying data across systems and applying machine learning, Tonik can, for instance, implement quick and accurate alternative credit scoring methods. This enables it to serve individuals who have not formally engaged with financial institutions in the past, have no credit histories, and do not qualify for traditional bank loans as a result. Tonik has recently pioneered a consumer lending product called “Quick Loan” without the need for credit histories or collateral, followed by approvals within 30 minutes and real-time disbursement.

  “To drive financial inclusion and transcend physical distance, pivoting to digital-first business models and customer interactions are now a necessity,” said Ruma Balasubramanian, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Google Cloud. “Tonik, through its mature API- and data-led strategy, is creating an open finance ecosystem that will accrue richer digital user experiences and flexibility for players to securely share and maximize digital assets – with Filipinos the ultimate beneficiaries. Google Cloud is proud to be a part of Tonik’s innovation journey. We look forward to supporting the bank’s continuous commitment toward serving the Philippines’ unbanked and underbanked, while it scales for growth and empowers the region’s fintech developer community.”

TECHNOLOGY

Infinit Care powers mental health in workplace with technology

June 28, 2022 8:12 p.m.

Members of the media were gathered last June 24, to talk about workplace mental health and how Infinit Care is pioneering a tech-based solution that allows companies to support the mental wellbeing of employees.

Workplace Mental Health

Mental health issues are on the rise, especially among the working population and it’s severely affecting overall health and productivity.

The World Health Organization found that mental illness is prevalent in the Philippines. In fact, it is the third most common disability in the country. The National Center for Mental Health also recorded a 500% increase in monthly hotline calls due to depression during the pandemic.

Companies have tried to answer this plight by providing mental health support whether in-house or through a 3rd party provider.

However, a lot of the options in the market focus on delivering solutions that cater to those who are already in crisis and leave out a significant part of the population.

Studies also show that despite increases in stress and burnout, utilization for mental health benefits remain low due to the lack of access to proper mental health solutions and the persistent stigma around talking about mental health struggles.

A Pioneer in Mental Health Tech

Infinit Care partners with businesses and organizations to provide their employees and community with comprehensive mental health support.

“Our platform of care solutions are founded on The Mental Health Continuum which takes into account a wide range of mental health states so that every employee can receive customized support, no matter what they’re going through, wherever and however they need it,” explained Infinit Care Marketing Head, Paola Silva. 

“Everyone needs different kinds of care at different times. We work with companies who care deeply about the mental wellbeing of their employees and understand that mental health is just as important as physical health. We help companies bring the best out of their people by providing personalized mental health support.” said Infinit Care’s Head of Clinical Care, Shyne Mangulabnan.

Infinit Care is the only provider in the Philippines that can provide multi-channel mental health support.

Available via web and mobile app (iOS and Android), Infinit Care can meet the varying needs of all employees.

Our suite of solutions include 24/7 chat support with real live Care Chat Coaches who commit to an average response time of 5 minutes, a team of qualified licensed counselors and coaches available for virtual counseling or coaching at your convenience, a library of mental health tools and content to meet the varying needs of your workforce, and mental health training and capacity building workshops for the leaders and entire organization.

For more information on Infinit Care, visit https://www.infinitcare.co

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TECHNOLOGY

3 ways to build a sustainable, digital Asia-Pacific

June 21, 2022 9:38 p.m.

By Baifeng Lin

Many countries in the Asia-pacific have released digitalization strategies. Cloud Computing technologies are the cornerstone of the digital frontier. For digital economies to thrive they must adopt an open and green ecosystem.

The last two years have been a series of trials. Out of the changes, there has been increasing attention in the digital world and rekindled vigor in how people, businesses and organizations should adapt.

As one of the most populous and diverse regions in the world, the Asia-Pacific is set to be the fast growing economy at the forefront of the global digital landscape. It represents two-thirds of the world’s population, and would reap an economic dividend of more than 1.7 trillion annually.

Mckinsey notes that COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation by seven years globally and 10 years in Asia Pacific.

To catch up with this sweeping trend, many countries have released national digitalization strategies. For example, Singapore released its Smart Nation 2025 blueprint, Indonesia and Malaysia released strategies to Go Digital, Bangladesh released its Digital Bangladesh blueprint, and Thailand announced its vision to become a digital Hub in ASEAN.

From a technological point of view, the future of Asia-Pacific will require a digital economy underpinned by leading Information and Communications technology solutions and an open and green industry ecosystem is needed as soil for innovation.

And finally, we will need to chart an effective course that addresses gaps in equality to normalize the playing field.

  1. Build ICT Infrastructure for digital economy

ICT has already proven its value in accelerating economic recovery post-pandemic. Connectivity and computing are the lifeblood of the digital frontier. While connectivity  continues to bridge the digital divide offering new education and employment opportunities, enterprises look to the cloud, connectivity and AI to optimize their businesses.

However, the digital readiness of the region varies greatly. For example, China is stepping into data dividend and information dividend, and Southeast Asia is still under the peak phase of demographic dividend. In China, 5G has been widely covered across the country and the penetration rate is more than 40% -100+Mbps, fiber home pass rate is over 90%. However, the large-scale use of 5G has only started in some SEA countries. In SEA, 4G mobile coverage is slightly above 50%, and fiber broadband only reaches one third of households. Cloud penetration in SEA enterprises is less than 20%, which indicates a huge space for data monetization and industry digitalization.

Regarding 5G technology, it is already emerging as a game changer in key industry sectors. For example, Siriraj Hospital, the largest hospital in Thailand on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19, launched the first 5G smart hospital in the ASEAN region featuring smart logistics, 5G Ambulance and smart inventory management.

According to professor Dr. Prasit Watanapa, Dean of Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, “the 5G smart hospital project will be a new model for modern medical facilities, 5G provides the high-speed connections needed to ensure seamless transfer of patient data and operation of telemedicine equipment”.

In some remote areas with limited access to 5G, digital infrastructure is playing an even more important role. The Bangladesh government has made great efforts and progress in implementing network in over 2,600 townships and enabling social well-being service including e-government and finance.

In Malaysia, known as “the kingdom of spices”, HEXA Food established an Internet of Things team to train a chili identification model on Cloud MOdelArts. The image recognition technology of Atlas 500 quickly and accurately identifies the quality of the chilies. Intelligent AI-powered sorting eliminates errors in manual sorting and improves the efficiency by 50%.

  • Create an open and green ecosystem

Meanwhile, every country, business and individual has faced some common questions recently — how to survive and develop with resilience and robustness in an environment full of uncertainties? The booming digital economy and low carbonization will generate new business form, new production relationships, and new value distribution systems. A healthier and greener industry ecosystem is therefore required.

First, embracing a digital Asia-Pacific will make an open and collaborative ICT ecosystem will include government, partners, operators and users and will help shape opportunities for transformation in different industries. A good example would be the joint open lab in Singapore. All companies, academics and government agencies can use the lab, where they can have access to cutting-edge robotic solutions, intelligent digital twins, and Ai development kits for research.

Secondly, moving towards carbon neutrality, digital power technologies will be essential to enable energy digitalization for a greener future. In Thailand, smart photovoltaic rooftops are being installed in over 1,200 convenience stores. This is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions for more than 1,300 tons every year. By integrating Ai and Clod in PV for optimal power generation, this makes the solar power plant to highly efficient, safe and reliable and builds the foundation for the solar to become the main energy source.

  • Chart a sustainable and inclusive course

Simultaneously, we need to be aware that half the world doesn’t have internet access. In Asia-Pacific, according to the APNIC Foundation, the total internet adoption rate in the region remains below half of the total population at 48.4%. By 2023, it’s estimated this will increase to 72% (3.1Billion users), leaving more than a quarter of the region’s population still disconnected.

That’s simply untenable in an increasingly digital world as people can’t be empowered by technology if they don’t know how to use it. Service like mobile payments, government services, access to digital education and healthcare should all act as gateways to anyone and help underserved communities, including women, girls and older generations.

Take education for example, the ability to learn knowledge regardless of location has helped democratize education resource access. In the Philippines, PLDT-Smart Foundation worked with the tech company to promote the School-in-Bag project. Each backpack includes a laptop for the teacher, 20 tablets and a Smart LTE pocket Wi-Fi kit. It significantly enhanced the students’ learning capabilities, helped children absorb their lessons, and improved the teaching strategies.

Future is digital

Technology has the power to level the playing field. It can bring education, healthcare and jobs to anyone, anywhere around the world. It will revolutionize businesses and industry and it can help manage our use of the world’s resources to enable a sustainable and green future.

In the Asia-Pacific Region, the digital economy ignites social recovery and enables resilient future. It provides synergies for public-private industrial collaborations across country boundaries and scenarios. As we arrive on the precipice of a digital future, we must strive to focus on the harmony that exists between our real world, and the digital one ahead.

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TECHNOLOGY

Infinix announces NOTE 12-PUBG partnership for smoothest gaming experience

June 16, 2022 8:23 p.m.

Infinix has announced a partnership with massively popular Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and its newly-released NOTE 12 promising gamers hours upon hours of the smoothest gameplay experience that will test their skills and unleash their fullest gaming potential.

“Filipinos are some of the most passionate and skilled gamers out there and we, at Infinix, want to highlight that talent and the ever-growing E-sports community with this NOTE 12 partnership with PUBG,” said Infinix’s Marketing Head, Joseph Cernitchez. “From the limited edition PUBG packaging at launch, show matches with your favorite gaming influencers, to a nationwide PUBG tournament, we have so much in store for everyone that will show gamers  why the NOTE 12 is the ultimate gaming phone.”

PUBG is an online multiplayer battle royale shooting game released in 2017 by PUBG studios. Inspired by the film Battle Royale (2000), the game follows how up to 100 players get parachuted onto one of several maps and how they manage to scavenge for weapons and equipment to eliminate the other players and win the round by being the last man–or team–standing.

As part of the Infinix x PUBG partnership, Infinix launched a limited edition PUBG box and case exclusively for the NOTE 12 G96.

Infinix and PUBG will also be holding a nationwide PUBG tournament that seeks to gather the best players and teams across the Philippines in a series of battle royale showdowns.

They will also bring together some of the renowned mobile gamers in an All-Star game during the tournament.

In the meantime, while you’re gathering your team for the Infinix x PUBG Mobile Cup, view the NOTE 12 in action at Infinix’ official website.

The smoothest gameplay experience 

Experience the best mobile gaming experience with the MediaTek Helio G96 Ultra Gaming Processor providing more speed and power to the NOTE 12.

The chipset is a 64-bit octa-core that incorporates two powerful Arm Cortex-A76 and six Arm Cortex-A55 processor cores clocked up to 2.05GHz and Arm Mali G57 GPU that work together to harness next-level intelligence for groundbreaking performance.

Casual and heavy gamers alike will find that no game is too heavy for the NOTE 12. Infinix expands the NOTE 12’s 8GB memory to 13GB by integrating RAM and ROM to provide users with up to 5GB extended RAM.

This improves the smartphone’s processing speed and accelerates performance when users are using their smartphone to multi-task by delivering extra power when it’s needed.

The NOTE 12 is also one of the thinnest smartphones at 7.8mm that comes equipped with a 33W Fast Charge feature, and a huge 5000mAh making this lightweight smartphone more portable than ever while staying powered all day long. So gamers need not worry if they have enough juice while training and even competing.

Beyond gaming, photography enthusiasts will also love the 50MP Ultra Night Triple Camera, which can take clearer night pictures, and its large AMOLED screen with blue light technology.

The Note 12’s screen features the brightest colors on an eye-friendly display that gives the best performance in contrast ratio and color calibration in 1080×2400 pixels resolution.

Want to test your shooting skills and mettle against some of the best PUBG players in the Philippines? Watch for the Infinix x PUBG Cup–see how the Infinix NOTE 12 gives you that smoothest gameplay experience for you to reign supreme and your team may just get the chance to win the massive prize pool!

Learn more about the Infinix Cup and register your team by visiting Infinix Facebook Page. 

The NOTE 12 is available in Force Black, Sapphire Blue, and Snowfall in 128GB and 256GB for P8,990 and P9,990, respectively at Infinix stores nationwide, via Shopee. For more information, visit http://www.infinixmobility.com/.

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