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The rise of touchless technology and its applications

In a world where social distancing is the new normal, touchless technologies begin to gain more and more interest. Before the global pandemic, people didn’t think twice before touching door handles, elevator buttons, or check-in kiosks. But as we speak, high touch surfaces are a hot topic as worries over health and safety are on the rise. As a result, fintech innovators and not only, are looking for ground-breaking alternatives to keep us all safe.

‘Work from home’ is certainly not a permanent alternative, since many businesses require employees to be physically present to get the job done. As you probably heard this before, Coronavirus is not likely to go away anytime soon, so touchless technologies seem like a great opportunity to get things back to normal. In response, some companies started to implement a touchless check-in process for visitors or even Bluetooth access control for employees.

It seems like it’s the perfect time to go touchless. Even if this need is forced by uncontrollable factors, such as a global pandemic, we should look on the bright side of it and become aware that going touchless is in our own good. So, let’s go over some examples of touchless technologies and find out more about it in general.

What are we trying to say by ‘going touchless’?

Well, despite how relevant this topic is as we speak, businesses going touchless is not new. In fact, touchless technology has been around since the late 1980s when motion-sensing faucets and soap dispensers were common within public restrooms. Today, we experience touchless technology several times a day. Just think of how many times you walk through an automated door or think of those moments when you ask Siri to turn on the timer for you.

As you can see, touchless technology is not limited to hygiene and safety. Societies look up to it and treat it as a forward-thinking and modern alternative to complete daily tasks. With that being said, we can define touchless technology as anything that can function without the need to physically touch a device.

Example of touchless technologies

  • Gesture recognition

This is among the most common types of touchless technology. The way we interact with devices is simply replaced by gestures. For instance, waving your hand to activate an automated door replaces the need to physically touch its knob or button.

  • Touchless sensing

Similar to gesture recognition, touchless sensing can detect the movement of an individual under a sensor. In our day to day lives, we come across this no-touch technology several times per day. Think of the last time that you went to a gas station, grocery store, or lodging facility. Most likely, there was no one to open the door for you and you didn’t have to do it yourself either. Thanks to touchless sensing, such actions are simplified and become part of our daily routine.

  • Voice recognition

This form of touchless technology enables users to control a device by speaking to it. Android and Apple devices can be controlled by simply stating some keywords, such as ‘Hey Siri’, replacing the need to touch that device at all. Setting up reminders, timers or other tasks is as quick and simple as ever.

  • Facial recognition

Not long ago, facial recognition seemed to be far from reality. Now, this touchless technology is available for millions of people, most often utilized to unlock smartphones. However, as more people gained interest in its capabilities, innovators found great use cases and environments where it can be applied. The KLM Royal Dutch Airlines started a test involving ‘biometric boarding’, allowing passengers to board the aircraft without showing their ID’s anymore, recognizing passengers by their faces.

  • Personal devices

Apple Pay has proved that traditional credit cards can be left behind and that payments can be completed from our own devices. Compared to contactless payments, where users must touch the POS with a card to complete a transaction, personal devices provide a ‘cleaner’ alternative where that ‘touch’ is not necessary to successfully complete a transaction. Modern personal devices can store your credit/debit cards virtually. For safety reasons, upon completing a purchase, users can authenticate by using their own faces or by inputting a personal identification number.

Oveit as a touchless payment solution

At Oveit, we strongly believe in the power of touchless technologies, especially during the current situation, that of a global pandemic. Until now, our Economy as a Service solution was partially touchless since economy members were required to visit an on-site top-up point to add money onto their digital wallets.

To tackle this challenge and identify ourselves as a complete touchless solution, we started to think the extra mile and concluded that an end-user App is what we need. The purpose of this App is to enhance the experience of our end-users, enabling them to top-up money in a defined economy, from the comfort of their own houses or wherever an internet connection is available.

For economy owners, this alternative should reduce costs, with fewer staff members required. Economy members simply become their own cashiers and upon arrival, their digital wallets should be ready to go. Also, if activated, the auto top-up feature allows users to set a warning limit. As soon as that warning limit is reached, the digital wallet automatically adds up the pre-defined amount from the linked credit/debit card.

Circular Economy: principles, benefits, and solutions

The main goal of a circular economy model is to produce goods and services in a sustainable manner by reducing the consumption and waste of resources (raw materials, water, energy). It contradicts with the traditional linear economy, that of a ‘take-make-consume-waste’.

According to many, a circular economy requires a local production capacity. It is a process that depends on fundamental changes to the existing production and consumption systems. According to the World Economic Forum, the world’s economy is only 9% circular. To become more efficient and preserve our natural resources, we must open our eyes and begin to think circular rather than linear.

Today, we are going to focus on the Circular Economy model, its principles, benefits, and existing solutions implemented to tackle the traditional linear economy.

The principles of the Circular Economy

In this model, every single product is manufactured and designed for future reuse, and ideally, at the end of its lifetime, it becomes a potential resource. Within this model, each stage in the economic cycle is modified, from producing goods and services to using them. It is an environment where products are built to last, with less energy and resources consumed. Please find below the three main principles of the Circular Economy.

1.       Design out waste and pollution

What if waste and pollution were never created in the first place? In a circular model, product waste is eliminated straight from the design stage, meaning that goods can be used and reused longer, fixed more easily, and finally recycled to create additional industrial inputs.

2.       Keep products and materials in use

A circular economy promotes activities where value in terms of energy, labor, and material is preserved. With the available technologies and innovative solutions, products should be designed for durability, reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling. This leads to a closed-loop production system, where components are circulating the economy. It takes advantage of bio-based materials, allowing businesses to reuse them for several products.

3.         Regenerate natural systems

The process of extracting and processing natural resources causes 90% of global biodiversity loss and water stress while harming the global climate. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2060, the current resource use of 190 billion tones will double and exceed our planetary boundaries. Therefore, changes in business and policy models must occur.

A circular economy is designed to eliminate the use of non-renewable resources, preserving, and focusing on renewable ones. This way, valuable nutrients are returned to the soil and renewable energy is used rather than fossil fuels.

Economic benefits of a Circular Economy

At a macro level, circularity has many economic advantages. A surplus of $2 trillion a year could result from more effective resource management. This is due to a substantial decrease in the cost of raw materials.

  • Considerable resource savings

Even if more and more people become aware of the circular economy model, the extraction and prices of the main raw materials are still on the rise. In 2019, only 9% of all raw materials were recycled. In theory, a circular economy should recycle 100% of these materials, without new virgin raw materials required. However, it is predicted that this scenario will take quite a long time to be accomplished. Innovative methods should be applied to completely recycle materials that are utilized in production.

  • Economic growth

In this model, economic growth is not dependent on the scarcity of raw materials. It is predicted that a shift towards the circular economy is set to promote economic growth. Since new raw materials are not extracted anymore, the development, maintenance, and production of circular products will require a specialized workforce, increasing the number of jobs. With less demand for specialized jobs in the extraction and processing of raw materials, specialized employees will have to adjust to a new work environment.

  • Employment opportunities

As previously mentioned, the need to extract raw materials is not fundamental within a circular model. For this reason, such an economy requires a specialized workforce with a new set of relevant skills and aptitudes. Therefore, workers that extract and process raw materials might have to adapt and get familiar with new procedures and environments. The existing studies anticipate a modest, but positive impact of Circular Economy on employment volume.

  • A good reason to innovate

Change comes with a desire to innovate. Thinking circular rather than linear already motivates innovators to optimize the entire system. This will form new collaborations between different parties involved, such as recyclers, producers, and designers. They can add more knowledge and great value in terms of sustainable innovations.

Circular Economy solutions

  • CleanCup

Headquartered in Lyon, France, CleanCup is a solution designed to eliminate the use of disposable cups. They promote it as a turnkey solution meant to distribute, collect, and automatically wash reusable cups. Places such as campuses, companies, and communities are prioritized since those tend to generate a lot of waste.

Globally, it was established that people use 500 billion plastic cups and 16 billion coffee cups coated in paper. In theory, it is possible to recycle disposable cups, but the manufacturing process tends to be somewhat difficult, leading to very few of them being recycled. With CleanCup, one can get a clean and empty cup for a 1€ deposit. At any point in time, the user simply puts the cup back inside the machine and gets back the deposit. As soon as a cup is returned, the machine automatically washes it to be reused.

  • Positive Energy Ltd.

This is a matchmaking platform between investors and small to mid-scale renewable energy facilities. Its purpose is to allow investors to easily find projects that require renewable energy financing.  This blockchain-based asset financing, trading, and management platform digitalize the transaction workflow, making renewable energy investments fast, liquid, and transparent for all parties involved.

This initiative aims to boost renewable energy investments. By 2030, it could save around 20 million tons of CO2 per year. It is widely accessible and profitable for shareholders, with return on investment.

  • RePack

This solution replaces the single-use delivery packages in e-commerce, providing reusable, and returnable delivery packaging. It is cost-efficient and environmentally friendly, with 78% less CO2 created and 92% less landfill waste, compared to traditional packaging.

Users can simply return these packages in letter-size or to any location using RePack packaging. Customers are incentivized to return used boxes through different vouchers to be redeemed at any participating RePack store. This packaging can be used at least 20 times.

Oveit as a possible solution to track local recycling practices

Not long ago, we concluded that our technology can be utilized in different contexts. Among these, we feel that Oveit can be looked at as a viable solution to track and incentivize communities to recycle responsibly.

By using NFC wristbands or cards, community members can be rewarded and incentivized to recycle waste. It could add up gamification elements to an important cause. Participating locations can simply use any Android NFC enabled device to scan cards or wristbands. Based on the expected outcome, members can easily be rewarded in real-time. For instance, the economy owner might reward members that recycle at least three times per week. To record data, NFC readers could be placed nearby waste containers. Members that recycle enough are automatically rewarded and all that information is stored on their digital accounts (NFC wristband or card).

Building a transparent economy for people in need

There are as many as 500,000 people experiencing homelessness in America. Governments allocate funds for shelters and food, but poverty is still a big challenge in many parts of the world. Some consider that these funds lack the right amount of transparency, leading to unfair and insufficient allocated resources for those in need. The long chain of intermediaries and lack of transparency are the main challenges when it comes to distributing funds in general, but especially for homeless shelters and other social services.

Unfortunately, these are questions that most government officials and citizens don’t have an answer to. There is no wonder why substance abuse, mental illness, and violence are so common among homeless people. The available data tells us that 37% are children, 8% are veterans and the remaining 48% are disabled.

Would you reconsider giving out some spare change to a homeless person if you were assured that your money contributes to their well-being? Personally, I would. This is not targeted solely for us, as the working class, but also for governments offering financial aid for people in need. If authorities cannot know for sure where allocated funds end up, how can we know any better?

In this post, we will go over innovative ways and available solutions aimed to distribute assets for people in need, instead of traditional ways of doing so.

Digital Tokens as an alternative in the Social Sector

Tokens have been around for quite some time. They were used in different forms, long before the emergence of blockchain technology. Usually, they can represent any kind of economic value. Some examples of tokens are casino chips, vouchers, gift cards, bonus points within a loyalty program, club access tokens such as a stamp on your hand, club memberships, and so on. They include in-built counterfeiting protocols to prevent people from cheating the system. In some countries, recyclable bottles might be looked at as tokens. To purchase a product that is stored in a recyclable bottle, one would have to pay a certain amount on top of the initial price. Losing the bottle means that you lose your deposit.

Nowadays, tokens have evolved considerably. We mostly find them in digital forms rather than paper vouchers or plastic coins. The most important achievement is related to the underlying technology used by end-users to share and exchange such assets, that of blockchain. Many find it as a breakthrough alternative to transparent and decentralized transactions. To keep on track, let’s get back to how this innovative solution might help people living in poverty and assure a secure and transparent purchase behavior.

  • Philanthropy and international aid

An increasing number of charities and non-profit foundations shifted away from traditional ways of receiving donations to accepting donations directly from donors through bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. On top of that, a number of foundations created their own ‘charity tokens’ to raise money for various social impact projects. For instance, the Clean Water Coin enables donors to purchase and donate by using cryptocurrencies, without any additional fees and intermediaries involved in the process.

  • Identity and land rights

In a recent study, the United Nations concluded that one in every five people globally lacks a legal identity. For refugees that are always on the run, the rates might be higher. The Humanized Internet is a project that enables vulnerable people to store their identifiers, such as birth certificates or university degrees on a blockchain, taking the form of distributed digital lockboxes. This way, people that have challenges with maintaining physical identification copies can take advantage of their privileges.

Applied cases – Ground-breaking solutions for people in need

Greater Change

A relatively new social innovation project, called Greater Change, provides homeless people with QR code badges. Pedestrians who wish to help can simply donate by scanning that code with their phone camera and make an online payment in a matter of seconds. That donation is transferred into a personal account managed by a caseworker, whose duty is to ensure that donated money is spent on real needs, such as rental savings, food, or a new identification document.

“The problem we’re trying to solve here is that we live in an increasingly cashless society and as well as this when people give they worry about what this money might be spent on,”


Alex McCallion, founder of Greater Change, told the BBC

GiveTrack

GiveTrack positions itself as a revolutionary donation platform. It enables donors to track their donations in real-time, providing transparency and accountability to donors by sharing financial information and live project results. Compared to traditional non-profit systems, this one offers low to no transaction fees, traceability of funds in real-time and cryptographic security. Fraudulent actions are nearly impossible to intervene along the way.

GiveSafe

As we live in a cashless society, helping others in need can be a real challenge. However, it is great to see that people become aware and act accordingly. GiveSafe proves again that it’s possible to help others in a cashless world. This solution enables people to invest directly and with clarity into someone struggling through homelessness. The app sends you a notification when you are passing by a person living in poverty. You have access to their personal stories and critical needs, providing you with a better understanding of their current situation. The payment is processed through the app and donations can only be used at partnered stores to buy what they need to survive or leave the streets.

Using Oveit to help those in need

Not long ago, we started to think out of the box and identify different applications for our cashless solution. We concluded that our available features could extend far beyond events & venues, with economies and communities as relevant candidates. Therefore, we decided to categorize our software as an ‘Economy as a Service’ solution, with a lot of potential use cases.

Among the different use cases, we consider that Oveit could be a viable solution for helping those living in poverty. How exactly? Well, our technology enables economy owners to onboard external vendors and become part of it. The economy owner, which in this case might be a local authority or other organization has total control over businesses part of the economy. As we talk about people in need, the process of adding money onto digital wallets takes a different turn. The economy owner has the option to top-up digital wallets with a certain amount, replacing the need for the end-user (people in need) to do so.

The digital wallet can take on different forms. Ranging from wristbands to cards or QR codes, economy owners can decide on the most relevant formats based on their needs and environment. Transactions are 100% transparent and the available reports enable owners and vendors to see goods and services purchased. 

Potential use for access control in homeless shelters

Our technology is also used for access control in designated areas. For events & venues, we have a lot of active use cases, where organizers require attendees to purchase a special ticket category to access let’s say a ‘VIP’ area. With Oveit, such information is stored and ready to be claimed with a simple tap of the hand thanks to an NFC wristband, card, or QR code. All entries are recorded in real-time and the available reports provide organizers with exact entry numbers and other attendee information requested in the registration form.

This feature might be a viable solution to keep track of the presence of homeless people in designated shelter facilities. If for instance an individual doesn’t check-in for three nights in a row, authorities can further look into what’s going on.


Small businesses and their impact on Local Communities

Think of your neighborhood or local community for a moment. You come back home after a long day and you pass by your favorite bakery, which is right across the street. Every Tuesday and Friday, you stop at this local bakery to surprise your beloved ones with some delicious sweets. Now, imagine that there is no bakery or other local shop in the proximity of your home. Not fun, right? 

Local businesses create a sense of belonging, providing character and individuality to a community. They enable local farmers, craftsmen, professionals, and other service providers to make a living and give back to their communities. They cover a variety of industries and most important, they enable locals to make a living by pursuing their passions. Unfortunately, their value and contribution are most of the time underestimated.

In this post, we are going to place the focus on small businesses and their positive impact on the overall well-being of local communities. Remember, just because a business is categorized as “small”, it’s not necessarily as small as you think. They are classified as businesses with up to 500 employees.

Establish a unique community identity

A well-established community with a respected identity creates a sense of pride, self-respect, unity, sense of belonging and social responsibility for people, groups, and organizations in it. The visual impression of a community is very important for its prosperity and reputation. Whenever you walk into a large chain, such as Walmart, you have no clue what community you are in. On the other side, when someone walks into a small local business, it creates a more intimate and personal relationship between owners and clients.

Local job opportunities

People that live in small towns are usually limited in terms of finding jobs that don’t require travel and commuting. An increasing number of people leave their hometowns for better opportunities. This action does not have a positive economic and social impact on the well-being of a community.

Fostering local jobs proves to be extremely effective in lowering local unemployment rates in economically distressed communities. A small business that hires locally does not only prove that it cares about the community, but it also keeps business professional and authentic. Local employees are aware of their surroundings and have the right knowledge to make valuable recommendations for tourists and locals as well. Localwise is an innovative platform that enables locals to find a wide range of jobs in the proximity of their homes.

Community health

Besides contributing to the identity of a local community, small business owners can build healthy and long-lasting relationships among locals. They are more likely to know their customers by name, leading to personal relationships that can’t be replaced. It makes them feel part of a strong community that shows great care and involvement in its prosperity.

They can form casual relationships, such as merchant’s associations or mentoring. They inspire locals and educate them on best business practices. Small businesses within communities tend to adopt and implement worksite health promotion programs (WHHPs). Worksite wellness programs introduce preventive strategies that improve employee health, such as public events and volunteering. Another unique characteristic of small businesses within communities is that most of the time, owners know each other and promote their products or services through word of mouth and referrals. They care about the well-being of the entire community and of the small businesses part of it.

Less infrastructure and low maintenance

As expected, small businesses require less work and maintenance compared to your standard large corporation. Since they are mostly small and don’t have complicated infrastructure requirements, their environmental footprint is almost nonexistent. Most locally owned businesses operate in remodeled and repurposed older downtown buildings. This leads to less public services and infrastructure required.

Small businesses create a greater community impact than many realize. They have the potential to form long-lasting relationships among community members, create local job opportunities, improve the overall well-being and community health while building a strong local identity. Remember, the most efficient way to promote your business within a community is to become involved in your town while being responsive to the vibe of your community.

Why are Podcast hosting solutions so important for content creators?

Do you wish to share your podcasts to a broad audience? If so, that’s a great plan! However, before reaching that level, it’s important to be aware that podcasting is not as simple as recording some audio and simply upload it on major podcasting platforms, such as iTunes, Spotify or Google Play.

Instead, podcasters should look for a podcast hosting provider to get started. Choosing the right one can be a long and exhausting process since there are plenty of options with similar features and tools.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the major podcast hosting sites and we’ll stress out different reasons related to how important it is to go with a podcast hosting solution rather than uploading your episodes on your own.

What is Podcast Hosting?

First, it is a dedicated platform where you can store and distribute your podcast’s audio files. They offer a podcast RSS feed (like a playlist with all your shows) that enables you to submit to a bunch of podcast directories, including Apple Podcasts. Besides that, these hosting platforms usually come with analytics, web players, scheduling tools, monetization options and editing features.

A podcast is a sequence of audio files that are compressed into a single file. Most of the time, they require a lot of space and bandwidth to be stored. Personal websites are hosted by servers with limited storage capacities. For this reason, a podcast hosting site is a critical tool for storing files and sharing it with a broad audience.

Podcast hosting vs. Podcast directories

Podcast directories include services like iTunes, Spotify or Google Play. These solutions receive your podcast files, RSS (rich summary site) feeds and move them into their front-end systems. Such directories enable listeners to find episodes by downloading a podcast app, by searching for it on a computer or by listening to it on an Android or Apple device. Podcast hosting and directories platforms are interconnected. How does it work exactly? As a podcaster, you simply upload your audio files and as soon as the directory detects new shows, it downloads the files and transfers the latest episodes for the end user. In other words, podcast directories such as iTunes simply read the RSS feed that is created by your podcast host and automatically transfers them to the chosen platforms.

What are the main benefits of Podcast Hosting solutions and why do you truly need one?

1.   Quality

Unlike storing podcasts on your own server, hosting platforms don’t force you to choose between quality, speed and storage space. If any of these are left behind, the quality of your podcasts will likely be deteriorated. Hosting platforms come with inbuilt servers designed to host large podcast files while maintaining the highest quality.  

2.   Lower Storage Costs

To host a one-hour audio podcast yourself will end up costing you a lot more than uploading it on a host platform. Hosting solutions take care of cloud storage for you and it will certainly end up being cost efficient. However, if your plan doesn’t come with unlimited bandwidth and your audience keeps growing, you might have to upgrade or pay the extra fees. The good news is that podcast hosting sites come with fixed pricing based on your storage needs. Comparing storage pricing with monetization potential, you’ll certainly pay a bargain to use a hosting platform.

3.   It’s Faster

Unfortunately, people in general are not patient enough, especially when it comes to download speed. If a video or audio file won’t start in 30 seconds, most of us will simply leave it behind and move on. It goes the same way for podcasts. Too much buffering or low speeds will have a negative impact on the listener’s interest and willingness to wait. This way, you might lose them and one of your competitors might captivate them instead. Thanks to a fully dedicated host for your podcasts, you hardly run into such situations. Hosting sites provide unlimited downloads to your episodes and bandwidth or speed are not a challenge at all.

4.   It comes with Analytics

We live in a world where data is the new gold. With podcasts, knowing how long your listeners stay engaged, the number of downloads per episode, where they are located or from which devices they listen to your shows is extremely important. Most of these platforms come with an in-built data analytic tool. It enables podcasters to make quick decisions based on listener’s preferences.

5.   Security

Security breaches are a serious problem nowadays. While running a podcast, it’s very unlikely to afford your own security layers. It requires a state-of-the-art security system in place when hosting episodes on personal websites. On the other hand, hosting sites come with in-built security measures that are included in the monthly subscription price.

Top Podcast Hosting software’s

There are a lot of companies that provide podcast hosting services. Anyway, we’ll be looking at the ones which are user friendly, easy to use and that come with great tools and support.

–          PodBean

Many consider PodBean as the best hosting service provider out there. Among their plans, podcasters can opt for unlimited audio upload and bandwidth. Different design tools enable users to customize their own hosted website. The PodBean podcast player can be easily embedded into WordPress posts and pages. Its podcast promotion tools will automatically share your recorded content to all top podcast directories. The advertising marketplace comes with monetization opportunities, connecting podcasters with a variety of sponsors.

Pricing: Free with limited storage and paid plans start at $9/month with unlimited capacity

–          BuzzSprout

This one is much appreciated by beginners. If you are a newbie, you’ll find this one extremely easy to use. All you need to do is upload your media files and the automated system takes care of the rest. You don’t even have to press another button to share your files to other directories. If you don’t want to build your own website, they can do the work for you. The only limitation is that even their paid plans come with limited storage and bandwidth capacity.

Pricing: Free plan with limited storage for 90 days. Paid ones start at $12/month for 3 hours of upload

–          Blubrry

This one is meant for new and experienced podcasters. It comes with a well-known WordPress podcasting plugin called PowerPress, making it easy to control podcasts straight from your WordPress site. It comes with other features, such as monetization options, podcast statistics, social sharing features and the list goes on.

Pricing: It starts at $12/month with 100 MB included

Final Thoughts

All in all, if you are an early podcaster or an experienced one, using a podcast hosting solution is the best way to connect with a broad audience and deliver high quality audio and video content.

At Streams.live, our mission is to create a dedicated platform for content creators, including podcasters. By looking more into other innovative solutions available on the market, we consider that our available features align with the needs of content creators and podcasters willing to stand out from the crowd.

Stay tuned for more!