Latest news and insight on how the technology sector is reacting to Covid-19
Google and Apple join fight against Covid-19, an SME cashflow lending project launches and concerns raised over Zoom’s security
Digital taskforce seeks lenders for Covid-19 SME cashflow project
A group of UK fintech companies has joined forces in a push to sign-up lenders looking to ease SME cashflows during the Covid-19 crisis. The consortium includes Trade Ledger (a digital lending platform), Wiserfunding (a digital SME credit scoring platform), Nimbla (a trade credit insurance provider) and NorthRow (a remote client onboarding platform). The platform aims to support term loans, invoice finance and asset finance and help lenders to deploy specialist loans of over £500K within days as opposed to weeks. The group said it was targeting banks, alternative lenders and private debt lenders. Martin McCann, chief executive at Trade Ledger, said, “With the Covid-19 outbreak putting immense financial pressure on global supply chains, now more than ever, SMEs need reliable cash flow if they are to stay in business.
Zoom security concerns raised
Video conferencing platform Zoom is one of the few businesses to see a significant upturn since the Coronavirus outbreak with enforced working from home boosting its sign-ups and causing its usage to rocket. The UK government, it was revealed, had been using the tool to hold remote cabinet meetings. However, this week the Ministry of Defence instructed staff to stop using the platform while security implications were investigated, according to the Press Association. Security experts warned that the platform had a “poor security response to vulnerabilities” and that that hackers could use brute force attacks to guess Zoom Meeting IDs, enabling them to listen in on meetings that were not password protected. Zoom has since put in place a number of measures to mitigate this.
Google announces $800m SME Covid-19 fund
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, has unveiled a $800m plan to support small- and medium-sized businesses, health organisations and governments, and health workers on the frontline of this global pandemic. This will include: $250m in ad grants to help the World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 100 government agencies globally provide critical information on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other measures to help local communities; a $200m investment fund that will support NGOs and financial institutions around the world to help provide small businesses with access to capital; $340m in Google Ads credits available to all SMEs with active accounts over the past year; a pool of $20m in Google Cloud credits for academic institutions and researchers to leverage Google’s computing capabilities and infrastructure as they study potential therapies and vaccines, track critical data, and identify new ways to combat Covid-19; and direct financial support and expertise to help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) and lifesaving medical devices. In addition, employees from across Alphabet, including Google, Verily and X, are bringing engineering, supply chain and healthcare expertise to facilitate increased production of ventilators.
Apple launches Covid-19 screening app and website
Apple has launched new Covid-19 screening app and website for the United States, in partnership government agencies. The app and website feature a screening tool, which lets users answer a series of questions to understand if they have any symptoms of Coronavirus. The questions range from medical symptoms to who they have been in contact with. It also asks about existing medical conditions. According to the answers, the user is provided a suggestion, based on government recommendations. The recommendations can either be social distancing and self-isolation, if the symptoms are not severe, or to contact a health professional. If the symptoms are not severe, the suggestions guide on how to monitor symptoms, and take care of oneself.
Slack usage rockets 25%
Workplace instant messaging platform Slack has seen a surge in use as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced around 20% of the world’s population into lockdown. Since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on 11 March, the number of simultaneously connected users - defined by Slack as the number of people active on Slack at one time - has increased by 25%. Simultaneously connected users stood at 10 million on 10 March. On 17 March, simultaneously connected users hit 11.5 million. On 26 March it reached 12.5 million. CEO Stewart Butterfield acknowledged that success for Slack is an outlier in the current climate. “It felt like the shift from inboxes to channels which we believed to be inevitable over five to seven years just got fast-forwarded by 18 months,” Butterfield wrote on Twitter. “Good for our business. But what about everyone else? Many sectors were already hit hard and the fallout for small business could be devastating.”
Covid-19 forces switches to facial recognition in India
An aversion to touching surfaces sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic is spurring a shift from fingerprint sensors to facial recognition systems for allowing access to employees across offices in India. It also has the added benefit of enabling thermal scanning to check body temperatures which can minimise the possibility of people with the virus infecting others. A leading telecom operator wants to replace its fingerprint-based attendance systems with facial recognition systems across India and a major steel company is considering a similar move.