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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.

The evolution of money: from barter to digital currencies

Money, as we use it today, is the result of a long process. Its physical characteristics are worthless without the value that people place on it. We use it as a medium of exchange, allowing us to trade goods and services.

Standard money did not always exist and in its early ages, people utilized other forms to exchange goods and services. With the changing requirements of economies and the evolution of technology, money and payments have changed considerably. As we speak, credit card transactions and digital currencies enable people to purchase goods and services virtually, in a matter of seconds. On top of that, there are currently over 150 currencies worldwide.

How did we get here? Let’s find out more about the evolution of money, how it was used in its early ages, and what brought us where we are.

The Barter economy

When barter was used as an exchange medium, the needs of people were very limited. The barter system has been used for centuries and it dates to 6000 BC.  This trading method doesn’t involve money and it relies solely on exchanging goods and services for other services and goods in return.

Bartering was common among Mesopotamia tribes and it was later adopted by Phoenicians. Belongings were exchanged for munition, herbs, food, and tea. Salt was considered a common exchange item and Roman soldiers wanted it so much that their salaries were paid with it. Europeans traveled around the world to barter crafted items and furs in exchange for silks and perfumes. Livestock was as well demanded in bartering. If someone owned cows and sheep, it meant they were wealthy.

Commodity Money

Similar to barter, commodity money worked under the same principle, with the only difference that societies placed different values on specific items. Let’s assume that we have two farmers, X and Y. X is growing olives and Y is growing potatoes. Farmer X needs potatoes and offers farmer Y olives in exchange, but Y doesn’t need olives at all. As a result, Y refuses the offer and the exchange fails. This was the main challenge of barter. It was quite hard to agree on two goods to be exchanged.

Therefore, common things like shells, salt, and pebbles (small stones) were looked at as commodities for exchange. This enabled farmer X to sell his olives in exchange for shells (as money), and with those shells, he could simply buy potatoes from farmer Y. Commodity money brought the birth of money in ancient times and economies started to develop because of that.

Metallic Money (coins)

As people were using commodity money more often, they identified new problems. This trading medium had three major common defects – perishability, indivisibility, and heterogeneity. They couldn’t be kept for a long time, so people couldn’t repay their loans or save it for other needs in the future. Besides that, commodities were not the same in every market, and trading with other regions was very difficult.

King Alyattes of Lydia became the first to mint official currency in 600 B.C. This currency was represented by coins, made of silver and gold. Coins were stamped with pictures to avoid counterfeiting. Each coin had a different value which made it easier for people to estimate the cost of items. As a result, this adopted currency helped Lydia’s both internal and external trade, classifying it as one of the richest empires in Asia Minor. If you’ve heard the saying “as rich as Croesus”, it refers back to the last Lydian King that issued the first gold coin. Soon after that, countries started to mint their own coins with different values.

Paper money or Representative money

Paper currency was first developed in Tang dynasty China during the 7th century, but true paper money only appeared during the Song dynasty, in the 11th century. Marco Polo was the one that introduced the concept of paper money in Europe, during the 13th century. Back then, paper money was used to buy goods and it operated in many ways just like currency nowadays. The main difference was that currency was issued by banks and private institutions. Now, the government is responsible for issuing money in almost all countries.

Representative money (paper money) was made and is currently made of materials with little to no value. The real value was backed by a bank’s promise to exchange that piece of paper for various goods, such as gold or silver.

Credit Money

As money became the main standard and societies started to realize that living a good life is dictated by a piece of paper, life was not safe anymore. Paper money had no protection from theft and rich people were treated as targets by thieves. In response, a banking system was created. This model enabled people to save their earnings into a safe savings account and allocate loans for people in need. However, in its early stage, the biggest issue was that moneylenders were exploiting poor people. As a result, banks took the responsibility to provide loans with some conditions.

Electronic Money or ‘Plastic’ Money

Electronic money is what we know as credit or debit cards. It is a way to store currency electronically and one can withdraw money by using an ATM. During the 1920s, individual firms in the US started to issue credit cards for customers. Purchases were only available internally at company locations. Nowadays, this model is used by businesses such as Starbucks. Customers receive a loyalty card on which they can add money and pay with it at any Starbucks location. They receive points with every purchase. With Oveit, economy owners can create a closed-loop environment, which works under the same principle. It is up to the economy owner to decide which vendors are part of it and members can easily be rewarded based on purchase behavior.

In 1950, Diner’s Club introduced the first universal credit card, which could be used within different locations. In 1958, American Express revolutionized the use of credit cards. It was the first credit card to be accepted internationally. In its early stages, these cards were made of paper, with the account number and customer’s name typed. After one year, in 1959, American Express began to issue plastic cards, an industry first.

In our days, credit cards can be stored on mobile devices. Services like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay enable customers to pay by simply tapping their phones to a point-of-sale terminal. It replaces the need to carry a physical card in your wallet.

Cryptocurrencies

In 2008, Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to appear. Satoshi Nakamoto, whose true identity is still a mystery, was the one that mined the first block of the Bitcoin network, piloting the blockchain technology. The most important differentiator of crypto payments is that transactions are decentralized, without a governing body. Transactions are stored in individual blocks and are immutable. Cryptocurrencies are not tangible, and they don’t possess a physical value. Businesses begin to realize that using crypto payments results in lower transaction fees. Without intermediaries involved in the process, traditional credit card fees are not an expense anymore. To give you an understanding of the evolution of crypto, as we speak, there are 5000 cryptocurrencies out there.

Final thoughts

Quite a long journey, isn’t it? The evolution of money indicates technological and economic development. From exchanging cows and chickens to digital currencies, humankind never fails to adapt and find innovative alternatives.

At Oveit, we are truly impressed by how money evolved over time. Our closed-loop payment solution wouldn’t be in place without this continuous development and eagerness to dream big. We want to focus more on local economies and their overall well-being, providing them with our Economy as a Service solution.

How can blockchain technology improve the travel and tourism industry?

According to robust data, the travel and tourism industry is the second-fastest-growing sector in the world, after manufacturing. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) concluded that in 2018, travel and tourism increased by 3.9%, more than the global GDP growth of 3.2%. As we speak, the Coronavirus outbreak generates a degree of uncertainty related to how and when the travel and tourism sector will get back to normal. However, we consider that destinations around the world begin to accept this delicate situation with a number of precautionary measures in place. Besides recommended measures coming from local authorities, such as social distancing and proper hygiene, we believe that travel and tourism organizations have the proper resources to integrate innovative technologies, such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

If used accordingly, blockchain and cryptocurrencies can contribute to the comfort and safety of a traveler’s journey. It can provide a new experience in terms of booking travel tickets and hotel rooms, removing intermediaries out of the way. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to explore different applications of blockchain technology in the travel and tourism industry.

First, what is blockchain technology exactly?

Even if it might sound confusing at first, it is actually pretty straight-forward to understand the basics of it. It can be looked at as a list of public records, also known as public ledger, with transactions between parties listed or stored in a transparent manner. Individual entries are encrypted and grouped into blocks that form a chain, therefore leading to the blockchain terminology.

The main characteristic and differentiator of the blockchain technology is that data is decentralized, meaning that it becomes available throughout the different nodes or computers part of the network. Copies of the compiled information are available on individual devices that are part of the network. In other words, the information stored is shared across a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. It is completely transparent, and it cannot be altered without the permission of the entire network and without modifying all subsequent blocks.

Applications of blockchain in Travel and Tourism

Recently, blockchain has gained a lot of interest in the travel and tourism industry. An increasing number of major companies have incorporated this technology in their list of offerings. Below, there are different ways in which blockchain technology might be used in the travel and tourism sector.

  • Lower transaction costs

The implication of intermediaries has inevitably been one key issue in the travel and tourism sector. These third parties involved in the booking process of hotels, airlines and other travel service suppliers result in additional fees for the end-user (tourist or traveler). TripAdvisor is an example of a third party that charges additional fees for their available services.

With the employment of blockchain technology, the long chain of intermediaries that results in delays and financial losses can be simplified. It is an ideal way to close the “gaps” made by different payment providers. At the moment, travel agents wait on average 60 days to earn their commission after a client checks out, because of the many parties involved in the payment cycle. Commission reconciliation can be a real hustle among travel agents. Travelport, a B2C travel service provider decided to adopt IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric to assure commissions paid to travel agencies. The main purpose of this partnership is to decrease the number of third parties involved in the payment cycle, by relying on blockchain in the process of a booking.

  • Trucking luggage

I bet that some of you that are reading this post have experienced issues with claiming a luggage, especially when dealing with international destinations. It’s definitely not a good start for a holiday or business trip. A traveler’s baggage is subject to several automated and manual processes, before being picked up at the final destination. This luggage itinerary is stored in a non-standardized form by the parties involved and these parties include airlines personnel, transportation companies, airports, and local authorities.

Blockchain, with its online-record keeping system stored on a peer-to-peer network can be a game changer and step up the way in which airlines tackle the problems of lost luggage. This way, both customers and airlines can track a luggage in all stages of its transfer process, offering full transparency to the process. Therefore, if a bag is mistakenly left behind, airlines can easily access its entire journey and identify the exact point where it went missing and the reason for that.

Back in 2017, Air New Zealand partnered up with Winding Tree, a decentralized Swiss travel start-up. The main purpose of this collaboration was to explore applications of blockchain technology in the airline’s business. Their mission was to improve  security and efficiency of services, such as baggage tracking and ticket booking.

  • Traveller’s identification

As blockchain does not store information on a central database, the customer identification process can save up a considerable amount of time by using this technology. It can even replace passports and become an industry standard for storing such personal information.

The World Economic Forum along the governments of Canada and the Netherlands launched a pilot program for paperless journeys between the two countries. This new project, entitled Known Traveller Digital Identity (KTDI), is the only solution to use digital identity for international trips, giving the traveler’s full control over how their own data is used. Personal data that is usually stored on a passport’s chip is replaced by encrypted data stored in a traveler’s digital wallet and it becomes available on mobile devices. Compared to old-fashioned ID systems that are operated by centralized authorities, KTDI is based on blockchain technology.

  • Secure and traceable transactions with Cryptocurrencies

An increasing number of companies in the travel and tourism sector begin to realize that accepting cryptocurrencies as a payment alternative creates a seamless purchase behavior. The major benefit that cryptocurrencies brings with it is that it eliminates traditional payment methods that rely on third-party payment apps. This way, transactions can occur between two entities directly involved. Payments based on blockchain technology will also decrease the time needed for completion of payments, resulting in faster transaction speed and more sales.

Another benefit is that cryptocurrencies replace the need of exchanging money into the local currency. It eliminates currency exchange commissions and users can take advantage of the same value no matter where they are. Forget about spending part of your allocated budget on bank commissions.

Given the various benefits of accepting crypto payments in travel and tourism, there are still some gaps that need to be addressed. It is not enough for a single entity to accept cryptocurrencies. For example, a travel agency that accepts crypto payments will still have to exchange those to Fiat money to contract services from providers that do not accept digital currencies. It is a matter of time until other parties involved will realize the benefits it brings with it.

Final thoughts

There is no doubt that blockchain technology has enough features and resources to revolutionize the travel and tourism industry. However, this innovative technology is still in the early stages of its life. To take advantage of its unique features, such as personal identification, governments and other authorities should have a good understanding of the benefits that it brings to the table. Anyway, many organizations from the travel and tourism industry begin to find out its applicability and that’s obviously a good sign for those involved in it.

We pledge our tech against Coronavirus: 8 ways to fight the disease

More and more people are being reported as infected with the COVID-19 virus which causes the Coronavirus Disease. As many communities all across the world are being challenged by this epidemic we, as citizens of the world need to stay united and ask ourselves: what can we do to help?

This is the exact question we’ve asked ourselves. Can our work fight against this epidemic? Can we use tech against Coronavirus?

The answer is yes, we can. We are already a company dedicated to supporting local communities. Now we pledge our technology and support to any community affected about the Coronavirus outbreak. No strings or costs attached.

Photo credit by CDC on Unsplash

Here’s how we can help:

1. Use cashless and contactless payments to avoid spread of the Coronavirus disease through cash

The most common way for coronaviruses to spread is through person to person transmission. You can check details here . Don’t forget when getting your news – always trust verified sources, especially on health issues.

However, Covid-19 can survive on different types of inanimate objects for up to 9 days, as estimated by a March 2020 study published in the journal of Hospital Infection. This, in turn, allows inanimate surfaces such as money to become sources of infection.

Our contactless technology has been developed for usage in closed loop environments such as events, venues and hospitality resorts. This means places and areas where many, many people congregate.

How can you use this tech against Coronavirus? You can use Oveit Pay to allow cashless and contactless payments in areas that are not yet accustomed to these new means of payments, thus reducing potential dangerous interactions.

Contactless payments tech against coronavirus
Contactless payments tech for everyone

If you want to reduce the exchange of currency in your community, thus reducing infection chances, we are here to help. Do reach out. We are ready to help without any cost.

2. Access control to quarantined areas

Oveit was designed to manage access to very large events or venues. Therefore it is built for speed, reliability and flexibility.

Access control tech against covid-19 virus

How can you use this tech against Coronavirus? Quickly set up an access management system to quarantined communities.

The system can operate either using NFC cards (the same technology used in contactless payment cards) or biometric facial features, if you need a higher level of security and less contact.

While we are not experts in the field we assume that just as with all large gatherings, you will need different access rights and roles. This can be easily set up for let’s say medical professionals, logistics personnel or general public.

3. Use tech to manage patient history and tracking in improvised treatment spaces

Given its mild symptoms, longer incubation and high infectivity rate, Coronavirus infections tend to spread very fast. This leaves public health facilities stretched and new treatment areas have to be added fast. With high stress and lacking sleep medical professionals need technological help to maintain patient data and trace-ability.

Our system is based on an infrastructure of managing visitors access, interactions history and journey. It is also built to run anywhere, in the cloud, with mobile interfaces.

NFC wristbands tech against Coronavirus infections
Medical NFC wristband for patient tracking and history

How can you use this tech against Coronavirus? Deploy the patient tracking and history system anywhere, without complicated hardware and software setup.

All that’s needed is NFC wristbands which can be shipped fast, mobile devices which are probably already available to anyone and an internet connection.

We can also help you connect the collected data to external, more specialized health management systems.

4. Tech against Coronavirus: rationing for goods, services, medical supplies and fuel

We’ve developed a system where any person that joins a specific group (whether it is an event, venue or community) can get access to specific items. We call these things add-ons.

The add-ons can be fixed (let’s say everyone gets a certain quantity of food) or it can be changed according to needs.

Let’s say everyone is entitled to the same amount of goods such as food or water but some specific cases need a bit more medical supplies.

US Gas stamps
US gas stamps for the 1973 oil crisis. They were printed but never used.

In times of crisis or disaster relief, the community used to issue specific tokens, such as the 1973 oil crisis stamps (see right).

How can you use this tech against Coronavirus effects? Access to the rationing can be done as previously mentioned via cards, wristbands or biometric usage. It can also be built into citizen apps where they can track usage, remaining ratios and more.

Historically the issuing of such tokens used to be cumbersome as it entitled certain logistics that were hard to manage, such as printing, shipping, distribution, managing identities and more. Now everything is digital and can be used in an instant.

5. Edge economies for communities that don’t have access to internet

All of the above are fine and all but sometimes crisis bring down core infrastructure such as electricity or internet.

Our technology is used in places that are usually unreliable, have a high technological stress and where deployment has to be done fast and securely and people are sometimes under the influence of unknown substances. Namely: festivals and large venues.

We’ve developed a system where areas that are either not connected to the internet or have unstable internet connections can have a local economy based on local hardware. They will hold a distributed ledger of value, transactions and allow monetary and value exchange until core infrastructure is restored.

We packed this into a hardware-software product we call the Edge Box and it looks like this:

Edge technology for affected communities
The Oveit Box helps communities that are disconnected from the internet and need a local way of managing value transactions. We think they’re especially useful in crisis situations and during festivals.

How can you use this tech to fight against Coronavirus caused outages? Using the Edge Box we can help you set up edge payments in your community that can operate as independent value exchange media for your citizens, local businesses and allow life to continue until life returns to normal.

Why is it called edge? Because it operates at the edge of the cloud.

6. Build a local economy that can operate even if disconnected from the outside world

In times of need communities tend to create economies naturally but they are usually unsustainable because of the usual underground distribution and analogue means of trading.

We think that in such extreme cases the community can still operate like a closed economy where specific actors in the economy can exchange with one another. Basically businesses can be onboarded and citizens can access their goods via virtual payment tokens that can be purchased either with traditional currency or with government issued credits.

Basically this shrinks the overall concepts of the open economy (the one we are all accustomed to) and offers it to a local community.

How can you use this tech against Coronavirus caused economic distress? This will allow the natural flow of goods, money and services that exist in that economy to operate in a quasi-normal way, all while being digitally connected to the financial system (bank, card payments and such)

7. Setup time banks

As Investopedia notes “Time banking is a system of bartering various services for one another using labor-time as a unit of account […]. Labor-time units can be credited to a person’s account in the time bank and redeemed for services from other members of the time bank. Time banking can be considered a form of community currency.”

This idea has been around for quite some time but it hasn’t really gained much traction outside of small communities. The reason? Scalability and safety issues when managing these types of ledgers.

How can you use this tech against Coronavirus caused economic problems? In closed environments such as a quarantined community, this can work as a very good exchange medium. Imagine the bakery providing bread and its value being accounted by the time being spent to manufacture the bread. The currency, time, can be exchanged afterwards into goods from other local sources.

Here’s a brief video describing the concept:

In quarantined communities exposed to Covid-19 work becomes a problem. Large gatherings are stopped and the trading of basic goods can move in the underground economy, cause supply issues and increase criminal activity.

8. Enable crypto payments to ensure economic continuity

This doesn’t necessarily affect the communities infected with Covid-19 but in times of crisis the financial system can be overwhelmed. For example in the case of the Yes Bank bankruptcy in India the cash withdrawals have been blocked.

In troubled financial systems such as Venezuela’s ecosystem, even very large institutions such as the Central bank and largest gas company are contemplating switching to Bitcoin as means of payments. The failure of financial policies has left the country unable to manage financial flow and has lead to civil unrest.

In extreme cases pandemics can bring the economy to its knees. In such cases the social structures are overburdened by existing efforts in disease containment. The disease is treated as an war effort and everything outside of it becomes second. Cryptocurrencies can work as stable coins in times of high economic stress and alleviate stress on governmental structures.

If you think these solutions can work for your community, we are very happy to help and we are always on the call to offer advice, help or our pledged services.

And again – this pledge means using our solution is free for any community affected by the COVID-19 virus and any help requested is confidential and on a need to know basis.

Stay safe!

Organizing events with millennials in mind

Millennials or Generation Y as others like to call them, were born between 1982 and 2000. In the US, millennials represent half of the people in employment and are the largest generation in the country’s workforce. At a global level, this exclusive club of 1.8bn people account for roughly a quarter of the world’s population.

According to a recent study, this generation cares more about experiences and is less materialistic in nature. The event industry is all about delivering memorable experiences and organizers must get creative to retain millennials for future editions.

Entertain millennials through technology

Millennials are tech-savvy and expect to attend events that embrace technology. Begin with the simple things that make a big difference, such as registration. The registration process should be mobile friendly and paperless. In 2018, 58% of online traffic came from mobile devices, while 42% from desktop. Generation Y has a big contribution to these numbers, with mobile devices being the preferred way for web surfing. Forget about physical tickets and send them electronically.

Instead of printing out brochures with event related information, include those details into a branded mobile app. The App can keep your audience entertained and up to date with event related news. It can be used as a networking tool as well. Face to face interactions are still a priority for this generation, despite their online presence. Allow them to match other attendees with similar interests and aspirations by using a dedicated event App.

Content quality

The average attention span is down from 12 seconds to 8 seconds according to a recent study. This is how long it takes for your audience to lose interest during a boring presentation. For organizers that focus on designing events with millennials in mind, providing entertaining content is essential. To achieve that, you can set up a pre-event discussion with the help of social media. This way, you enable your attendees to express their views and expectations. Based on their preferences, reach out to experienced speakers that deliver content in a professional and interactive manner.

Make it sustainable

Classifying as the first generation to grow in a world where climate change finds itself in a continuous debate, millennials tend to be very concerned when it comes to environmental sustainability. They admire progressive companies that take action and contribute to a better world. Your event makes no difference and should approach a sustainable culture to become a success.

Oveit is a tool that allows organizers to design events with millennials in mind. It offers a fast & secure payment alternative, a friendly registration process and on-site entertainment with a simple tap of the hand. If you want to convince yourself and give it a try, feel free to drop us a line!