Jax-based Finxact secures $12 million in funding for cloud-based banking software

(courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal)

The Finxact Core is a program that handles the main processes of all transactions in a banking environment, whether it be through branch or mobile banking or other channels. The Finxact Core is designed to provide next-gen services to financial institutions that may be operating on code written in the 1970’s or 80’s.

Finxact was founded late last year and the $12 million of funding obtained by the company will allow Finxact to enter the core banking software marketplace with other companies such as FIS. Sanchez says the first round of funding gives Finxact cash to pay for the necessary talent needed to make their new product formidable in the market.

According to a recent KPMG study, 39 percent of banks have already begun replacing their entire core system and an additional 21 percent are in the planning stages of a complete replacement. Finxact enables banks to quickly and easily offer new services for a growing digital-first population.

“Today, we have the depth in our team, the know-how, the technology, a great set of early customers, and now – the initial resources, to launch a new class of core banking as a service,” Sanchez said.

Junior Skepple

The Internet of Things and tech trends IT leaders should have on their radar for 2017

(Courtesy of Jacksonville Business News)

A technological evolution called the Internet of Things – defined as the digital connection via the Internet of mobile devices and everyday objects – should be at the top of IT leaders’ agendas for 2017. Early adapters of IoT have seen major transformations of their businesses, as IoT helps drive operational efficiency, excellence and revenue.

One such company is a laundry delivery service in Kansas City. Before a solution implemented by Sprint, managing a fleet of vans was unwieldy for the company. Some issues included not knowing its vehicles’ locations, providing drivers with directions was cumbersome, customer feedback was difficult to gather, and measuring driver efficiency was almost nonexistent. By simply plugging a small device called an OBD II (on-board diagnostic II) into each van, these problems were eliminated. Every vehicle built and sold in the U.S. after 1996 has the port necessary for the device, according to Mohamad Nasser, general manager at Sprint’s IoT Business Unit.

“You just plug it in. It’s very easy,” Nasser said. “Anybody can do it. Even my grandma can do it.”

IoT is not exclusive to big business; small businesses should be excited, too, said Nasser. The cost of entry is extraordinarily low. The Kansas City laundry service pays about $30 dollars a month for its OBD II devices.

“IoT can transform small and medium-sized business and enterprise absolutely equally,” Nasser said. “The barrier to entry in terms of cost is low enough (for small businesses), and the sophisticated features are strong enough for enterprise.”

In addition to IoT, below are two additional tech trends IT leaders should be paying attention to this year.

Immersive technology

Virtual and augmented reality are the hot-button topics within immersive technology, a term defined as tech that puts users into virtual environments. While VR is not fully mature and is in the early stages of its business utility, forward-thinking companies can achieve competitive advantages by expediting the exploration of the technology.

“It hasn’t quite come of age for B2B yet. Slowly, slowly it’s making its way,” Nasser said.

Some companies are using VR as a sales tool, offering customers product demos before their potential purchase. Sports teams, for example, show prospective season-ticket holders views from the seats they are considering buying.

Nasser offered Otis Elevator as an example of a company using an AR solution to make servicing its products more efficient. Codes on Otis’ hardware allow staff at the corporate office to identify problems and deploy the right resources to fix them, rather than sending a technician to trial-and-error the issue. When technicians view the codes on elevator hardware through AR goggles, they can see how to fix that particular problem.

“Diagnosing the problem using virtual or augmented reality and fixing the problem with these tools shorten the time needed to correct the problem,” Nasser said.

VR and AR are not ready, as some would claim, to take over the entire business world quite yet. It’s still cost prohibitive for some small businesses. The advice to IT shops at smaller companies in particular is to keep it on their radar.

Adaptive IT

Small businesses are often more nimble than their larger counterparts, a dynamic that makes them well-suited to capitalize on our third trend – adaptive IT.

Adaptive IT is the state of being prepared for change in our rapidly evolving technological world – the ability to punch up new solutions to accomplish a business’ moving targets.

“Today’s reality is that IT shops are being challenged dramatically to cope with this, and a lot of it has to do with old infrastructure, old design,” Nasser said. “I call it spaghetti code. The systems have been built to help support these businesses over many, many years. So people and companies are having to do a transformation of their business to get into this digital world. That’s not just an evolution, it’s more of a revolution.”

Because smaller businesses have less legacy code to wade through, they often have an advantage when it comes to adaptive IT.

“It’s easier for them to dump the old stuff and go for the new stuff,” Nasser said. “I think it can be harder for the bigger companies and large enterprises to do so because of all their legacy issues.”

Amazon rolls out chatbot tools in race to dominate voice-powered tech

Courtesy of Reuters.com

SAN FRANCISCO Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) chief technology officer is working toward a day when people can control almost any piece of software with their voice.

The company on Wednesday rolled out the technology powering Alexa, its voice assistant that competes with Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) Siri, to developers so they can build chat features into their own apps, CTO Werner Vogels said in an interview. The service, Amazon Lex, was in a preview phase since late 2016.

The move underscores how Amazon is racing to be the top player in voice-controlled computing, after losing out in mobile to Apple and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google.

Vogels said that Amazon’s headway in processing how humans write and speak would make conversational assistants or “chatbots” more helpful than the clunky tools they’ve been in the past.

“There’s massive acceleration happening here,” he said before speaking at Amazon’s cloud-computing summit in San Francisco. “The cool thing about having this running as a service in the cloud instead of in your own data center or on your own desktop is that we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it.”

Processing vast quantities of data is key to artificial intelligence, which lets voice assistants decode speech. Amazon will take the text and recordings people send to apps to train Lex – as well as Alexa – to understand more queries.

That could help Amazon catch up in data collection. As popular as Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices are, such as Echo speakers, the company has sold an estimated 10 million or more. Apple has sold hundreds of millions of iPhones and other devices with Siri.

Vogels said people use Alexa for many tasks, from helping them cook to playing music, while they talk to assistants on their phones in fewer scenarios like when driving a car.

As with other cloud-based services, Amazon will charge developers based on how many text or voice requests Lex processes.

Still, the biggest payoff may come from e-commerce, which has already attracted many to build chatbots. Amazon has begun offering Alexa-only shopping deals to encourage purchases by voice, and Facebook Inc (FB.O) this week said its virtual assistant, called M, can help users order food from delivery.com.

“Voice is a big part of the computer interface of the future,” said Gene Munster, a veteran equity analyst and now head of research at Loup Ventures. “Whoever owns voice will be the gateway of commerce.”

The three B’s of cybersecurity for small businesses

(Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal)

Large-scale cyberattacks with eye-watering statistics, like the breach of a billion Yahoo accounts in 2016, grab most of the headlines. But what often gets lost in the noise is how often small and medium-sized organizations find themselves under attack.

In the last year, half of American small businesses have been breached by hackers. That includes Meridian Health in Muncie, Indiana, where 1,200 workers’ W-2 forms were stolen when an employee was duped by an email purporting to come from a top company executive. Many small companies are just one fraudulent wire transfer away from going out of business.

There’s lots of advice available about how to fight cybercrime, but it’s hard to tell what’s best. I am a scholar of how businesses can more effectively mitigate cyber risk, and my advice is to know the three “B’s” of cybersecurity: Be aware, be organized and be proactive.

Here’s how more companies can boost their cybersecurity preparedness without breaking the bank.

Be aware

The best defenses against these types of attacks involve skepticism and vigilance. Attackers can be very clever and persistent: If just one person has one weak moment and clicks on one malicious link, an entire network can be compromised.

Most companies go to great lengths to protect their physical assets and personnel. But many do not take similar precautions with their digital information. A key computer may be kept disconnected from the internet, but if it accepts flash drives or rewriteable CDs, or if its password is easy to guess, the information is just as vulnerable.

Small business owners need to prioritize cybersecurity. Without proper preparation, even large companies can find themselves unprepared for cyberattacks. When Sony was hacked in 2011, it did not have an executive focused solely on information security. But hiring someone did not prevent another hack in 2014.

Be proactive

Planning ahead is vital, instead of just being reactive. The National Institute for Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework lists five main functions of cybersecurity efforts: Identify vulnerabilities, protect against attacks, detect anyone who gets through, respond to the attack quickly and recover after the attack has been stopped.

Some companies are already receiving advice that following the NIST guidelines can reduce legal liability if cybersecurity problems arise or are discovered. Companies can also work with colleges and universities to create cybersecurity clinics, or even consider buying cyber risk insurance.

There’s no way to avoid being the target of a cyberattack, but that doesn’t mean becoming a victim. Simple steps can have huge results: The Australian government reported resisting 85 percent of cyberattacks by taking three basic steps: restricting which programs can run on government computers, keeping software updated regularly and minimizing the number of people who have administrative control over networks and key machines.

Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be rocket science; it’s just computer science.

Repeal of FCC rules pitting privacy advocates vs. ISPs passes Senate

(courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal)

While the push for health care reform and Supreme Court confirmation hearings continue to dominate this week’s Washington news cycles, a Senate vote on internet privacy matters taken today is drawing the attention of business owners and consumer advocates alike.

At issue are privacy rules that were put in place by the Federal Communications Commission last year, ahead of the fall elections. The rules required companies to get consumers’ consent before they could share a host of web-browsing data with advertisers and other third parties, but the move put consumer-privacy advocates in conflict with companies that insisted the rules stifled innovation and service.

ISPs like Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) were reclassified as “common carriers” in 2015, a measure that eventually put them under the purview of the FCC, whereas big websites like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Thus, as Wired notes, Google can sell consumers’ web-browsing data to third parties without the same level of consent requirements that ISPs face.

And it’s not just the ISPs that wanted the rules wiped out. Advertising groups also have lobbied against them, as AdAge reported recently. It cited a statement from several of the groups that read, “Without prompt action in Congress or at the FCC, the FCC’s regulations would break with well-accepted and functioning industry practices, chilling innovation and hurting the consumers the regulation was supposed to protect.” Broadcasting & Cable added that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Flake (R – Ariz.), suggested the rules prevent ISPs from adjusting services to customers’ needs.

At the same time, proponents of the rules largely took on the position that they were necessary to protect people from corporate overreach into private information. For example, Sen. Ed Markey (D – Mass.) argued that pulling back on those rules effectively means more companies get to decide how much privacy individuals can enjoy, TechCrunch reported.

That same TechCrunch report noted a further complication of the Senate’s vote: Republicans are pursuing the matter under the Congressional Review Act, which allows legislators to undo regulations passed at the end of a previous presidential administration. That means the stakes are even higher than usual because should Congress undo those regulations, the FCC would be barred from issuing those same rules in the future, the report said.

The resolution still needs to pass the House of Representatives to take effect.

David A. Arnott is the National News Desk Editor with The Business Journals.



Intel to buy driverless car-tech firm Mobileye for $15 billion

(courtesy of reuters.com/technology news)

U.S. chipmaker Intel (INTC.O) agreed to buy driverless car-technology firm Mobileye (MBLY.N) for $15.3 billion on Monday, positioning itself for a dominant role in the autonomous-driving sector after missing the market for mobile phones.

The $63.54-per-share cash deal marks the largest purchase of a company solely focused on the self-driving sector.

Mobileye’s shares jumped as much as 30 percent to $61.51 in early U.S. trading, while Intel’s shares were down 1.3 percent.

The deal underscores the expanding alliances between automakers and their suppliers as they race to develop self-driving cars, a concept that once seemed a science-fiction dream but is drawing closer to reality.

While Intel is known for hardware chips and Mobileye for collision detection software, the merger promises to create a large portfolio of technologies needed for driverless vehicles.

That includes cameras, sensor chips, in-car networking, roadway mapping, machine learning and cloud software, as well as the data-centers needed to manage all the data involved.

“It’s an area where (Intel) has had very little presence – the automotive market, and so this is a tremendous opportunity for them to get into a market that has significant growth opportunities,” said Betsy Van Hees, an analyst at Loop Capital Markets.

“Mobileye’s technology is very critical … The price seems fair,” she added.

The offer represents a premium of about 33 percent to Mobileye’s Friday closing price of $47.

Intel will integrate its automated driving group with Mobileye’s operations, with the combined entity being run by Mobileye Chairman Amnon Shashua from Israel.

Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said the acquisition was akin to merging the “eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car.”

Mobileye supplies cameras, chips and software for driver- assist systems – the building blocks for self-driving cars – to more than two dozen manufacturers.

The company was an early supplier of vision systems to Tesla, but the two companies had an acrimonious and public breakup last summer after the driver of a Tesla Model S was killed while operating the vehicle using Tesla’s Autopilot system.

Intel said it expects the vehicle systems, data and services market to rise to $70 billion by 2030.


Mobileye, founded in 1999, accounts for 70 percent of the global market for driver-assistance and anti-collision systems. It employs 660 people and had adjusted net income of $173.3 million last year.

Analysts said that mounting a counterbid would be difficult as Mobileye’s Shashua would remain in charge and the combined entity would be based in Israel.

Shashua and two other senior Mobileye executives stand to do well by the deal: together they own nearly 7 percent of the company. Shmuel Harlap, Israel’s biggest car importer and one of Mobileye’s earliest investors, also holds a 7 percent stake.

Mobileye and Intel are already collaborating with German automaker BMW (BMWG.DE) on a project to put a fleet of around 40 self-driving test vehicles on the road in the second half of this year.

At the same time, Mobileye has teamed up with Intel for its fifth-generation of chips that will be used in fully autonomous vehicles that are scheduled for delivery around 2021.

Last October, Qualcomm announced a $47 billion deal to acquire the Netherlands’ NXP, the largest automotive chip supplier, putting pressure on other chipmakers seeking to make inroads into the market, including Intel, Mobileye and rival Nvidia NVDIA.O.

The Qualcomm-NXP deal, which will create the industry’s largest portfolio of sensors, networking and other elements vital to autonomous driving, is expected to close later in 2017.

For a dozen years, Mobileye has relied on Franco-Italian chipmaker STMicroelectronics to produce chips that the Israeli company sells to many of the world’s top automakers for its current, third-generation of driver-assistance systems.

Mobileye’s relationships with automakers, leading suppliers and STMicroelectronics will continue uninterrupted, the companies said in their statement, and Mobileye’s current product roadmap will not be affected.

(Additional reporting by Edward Taylor, Eric Auchard and Narottam Medhora; Editing by Luke Baker, Mark Potter and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)


Mumbai-based conglomerate agrees to buy Jacksonville company

(courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal)

A Mumbai-based technology company signed an agreement to purchase Jacksonville-based CJS Solutions Group LLC, which does business as The HCI Group, early Monday morning.

Tech Mahindra LTD will purchase an 85.7 percent stake in the company for an upfront price of $89.5 million and plans to buy the remaining stake over a three-year period, according to a statement from Tech Mahindra.

If the The HCI Group achieves all of its milestones during that three-year period, the Indian information technology giant will purchase the remaining stake for $130.5 million, bringing the total transaction to $220 million.

HCI Group Inc. is headquartered in Jacksonville, and has an international headquarters in the United Kingdom. The company provides “healthcare IT solutions in more than 10 countries in North America, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific, helping healthcare organizations plan, implement and sustain enterprise information technology systems.”

The company was founded by Jacksonville-native Ricky Caplin.

Caplin told the Jacksonville Business Journal that he views the merger of his company with $4.5 billion Tech Mahindra, as a tremendous opportunity.

“I plan to work with city leadership to position Jacksonville as the primary growth spot for Tech Mahindra, which if we capitalize on this opportunity, it will allow us to attract other international companies and technology firms,” he said.

Tech Mahindra currently operates a U.S. headquarters in Dallas, Texas.

The HCI Group will operate as an independent business unit of Tech Mahindra. A statement from HCI Group says the companies will be positioned “to offer new innovative and end-to-end integrated solutions to customers.”

The HCI Group’s financial advisor for the transaction is Allen & Company LLC, with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP serving as its legal counsel.

Derek Gilliam is a reporter for the Jacksonville Business Journal. He covers commercial and residential real estate and related industries as well as economic development and health care.


Eight Industries That AI Will Change Forever

(courtesy of Forbes)

Companies handle a great deal of information every day, which can make it difficult to tease out trends or watch for sales opportunities. Artificial intelligence (AI) improvements are reducing that strain by automating data analysis, which can reduce costs as well as the time required to make decisions.

Recent AI technology developments mean that firms now have a chance to take advantage of stronger analysis automation in fields like shipping, travel, health care and even transportation. Below, executives from Forbes Technology Council highlight eight industries that will benefit most from artificial intelligence.

it web

  1. Internet Of Things

Consumer behavior can be studied and learned by artificial intelligence, thereby improving upon the production of consumer products for the internet of things industry. When deployed in homes and cars, this intelligence can learn more about humans and how they think and act, thereby helping the IoT devices’ response. – Chalmers Brown, Due

  1. Sales Automation Services

Rarely a day goes by where I don’t get an offer for lead-generation services. Sales automation companies like InsideSales.com are red hot now, and for good reason. There is definitely a need to improve the sales process, and if artificial intelligence can examine online behavior or profiles accurately to identify potential opportunities, then companies like mine would sign up for such services immediately. – Tim Maliyil, AlertBoot

  1. Virtual Assistants Artificial intelligence isn’t yet ready to replace the human element, which powers virtual assistant apps. However, AIs process mounds of data in seconds, helping to expedite and personalize the decisions that assistants make on behalf of their clients. The resulting efficiency and cost reduction would help such apps break out of the Silicon Valley bubble and enter the mainstream of average users. – Gurpreet Singh, TalkLocal
  2. SMB Tools

Firms with fewer than 500 employees make up 99.7% of all businesses in the U.S. When I look at the SMB landscape across all industries, I see a lot of opportunities for tech companies to put the very best tools in the hands of small-business owners. Artificial intelligence is no exception. Small-business owners don’t care how their software works, just that it works. – Timothy Chaves, ZipBooks

  1. Autonomous Transportation

The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015, which saw the largest one-year percentage increase in 50 years. With car accidents and car-related deaths on the rise in the U.S., the single most promising application of artificial intelligence is autonomous transportation. Computer-engineered driving will decrease accidents and deaths. – Scott Stiner, UM Technologies, LLC

  1. Shipping And Logistics

Aside from the obvious current conversation around artificial intelligence enabling self-driving cars, I would expect to see similar technologies employed to help solve challenges in shipping and logistics, such as space allocation in trucks/shipping containers, and the dynamic management of route systems to improve delivery times on the fly. – Robert Calise, CommunityCo

  1. Security Analysts While companies are leveraging AI for everything from fraud detection to self-driving cars, the security industry is especially primed for an AI-driven paradigm shift. In security, we need deep visibility into what is happening in the enterprise. This creates a vast amount of data – too much to be readable by humans in finite time. AI can help security analysts make better decisions faster. – Jamie Butler, Endgame
  2. Health Care

Health care will be the primary beneficiary of artificial intelligence. Good health is in everyone’s interests and, however they are funded, health-care costs are significant and unavoidable. The efficacy and efficiency that AI will bring to health care will enable us to trim costs, as well as improve outcomes, with all of us gaining better understanding and management of our personal health. – Matthew Russell, Digital Reasoning

Work Wanted: Cybersecurity jobs a priority for government


(Courtesy of The Florida Times Union)

On July 12, the federal government issued a four-part workforce strategy that would allow cybersecurity professionals to perform a “tour of duty” in the public sector as part of their career plan.

The White House plans to streamline guidelines that would allow it to hire private sector security experts more quickly. It will also create a “cybersecurity cadre” within the Presidential Management Fellows program, a leadership development program for advanced degree candidates.

The Office of Personnel Management will also build cybersecurity career paths for current information security professionals working in government, including credentialing programs, rotational assignments, and efforts to make them subject matter experts in their field.

The federal government plans to hire 3,500 more IT security professionals before the year ends, in addition to the 3,000 hired in the first half of the current fiscal year. The strategy sets aside $62 million in the 2017 budget to expand cybersecurity education across the country in agencies like the IRS, which requested funding for 400 new IT professionals last year. That money would fund competitive scholarships or grants to hire or retain professors, adopt a cybersecurity core curriculum and strengthen existing education programs.

The National Science Foundation funds the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service, a program designed to grow and strengthen the cadre of federal information professionals that protect the government’s information infrastructure. According to the program’s website, it provides scholarships for full-time students while attending a participating institution, including tuition and fees.

To be eligible for scholarships, applicants must be a full-time student pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a formal program focused on cyber security at an approved institution, or be a research-based doctoral student. (Florida State is the only approved university in our state.) Applicants must also be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

In return for the scholarship, students must work in cybersecurity for a local, state or federal government office for a period equal to your scholarship grant. One academic year or less would require one calendar year of employment, for example. Many of the jobs would be in Washington, D.C., but participants must be willing to relocate. If you leave your job before the end of your term of service, you’d be required to pay back some of the grant funding.

Salaries will vary according to participant qualifications, but in general, new graduates would be appointed at the GS-7 level. Master’s degree recipients may be appointed at the GS-9 level, and those with doctorate degrees may be appointed at the GS-11 level.

Information security is one of the most critical needs of any government, so if you’ve considered the idea in the past, this may be the time to investigate a government career. You can find more about the program at sfs.opm.gov.

Candace Moody is vice president of communications for CareerSource Northeast Florida. Her column appears every Wednesday in the Times-Union, and she can be reached at cmoody@careersourcenefl.com.