Library Systems Report 2018 – American Libraries

Technologies that focus on supporting traditional library services no longer meet the needs of libraries that wish to strengthen their involvement in new service areas.

Academic libraries are looking beyond efficiencies in collection management or improvements in library-provided discovery services. Instead, they are addressing broader education needs by inserting relevant resources into platforms that support the curriculum and enhance their institutions’ research activities. Public libraries seek technologies that improve engagement with their communities. These libraries value reliable and feature-rich automation systems, and they are especially drawn to those that help them deliver compelling digital services. Basic library resource management and discovery capabilities no longer differentiate competitors in this market of mature products.

Library services platforms (LSPs) have been in use for more than half a decade and are a proven solution with products that continue to mature and evolve. The move from legacy products to an LSP may provide new efficiencies for internal library operations, but current models extend deeper into the academic enterprise.

A plethora of integrated library systems (ILS) with long lineages pervades the industry. In many respects these products have not only matured in functionality but have also adapted to changing expectations. The ILS continues to be the dominant solution for public, school, and special libraries, though it faces formidable challenges from LSPs in the academic library sphere.

In 2017, many ILS vendors devoted considerable development efforts to web-based interfaces. Many have evolved from earlier client-server technologies with graphic interfaces installed on the computers of staff members or service desks. The age of client-server computing has passed, and the transition to web interfaces is long overdue. Libraries seek fully web-based products without compromising the rich functionality and efficiencies embodied in legacy platforms. It’s unfortunate at this late phase of the cycle of cloud computing that development efforts are consumed in a lateral move toward new interfaces at the expense of innovations.

A year of gentle consolidation

Multiple business transitions have caused incremental changes in the overall industry. These events strengthened trends from previous years but did not represent disruptive change. This quiet year should not be taken as a sign that consolidation has run its course. Libraries should anticipate more active changes ahead.

The consolidation of the special library software sector continued with Lucidea’s acquisition of Eloquent Systems, which focuses on technologies for corporate, legal, and other special libraries. Through a series of acquisitions, Lucidea accumulated a broad portfolio of products, including CuadraSTAR, Inmagic, LookUp Precision, LawPort, and Argus, all complementing their SydneyPLUS products. The ILS market for special libraries includes a variety of niche products that do not necessarily directly compete. By assembling this group of products, Lucidea can address almost all aspects of this market and preserve the brands of the incumbent companies.

OCLC significantly strengthened its position on resource sharing by creating new products and services and acquiring new business. In addition to its already dominant position as a centralized interlibrary loan (ILL) service provided through WorldShare ILL, OCLC expanded into consortial resource sharing with its January 2017 acquisition of Ottawa-based Relais International. This acquisition placed OCLC in the dominant position in both areas.

In the international sector, Axiell Group solidified its position with the Elib ebook distribution platform by gaining full ownership, acquiring the interests of a consortium of publishers that had helped establish the business. The company has divested its stake in Bibliotheca. In August 2017, Axiell acquired ATP Automation Ltd Oy, a Finnish company specializing in products for materials handling and logistics. Prior to its acquisition, ATP was a business partner with Axiell for 10 years. Through an ongoing series of business transactions, Axiell has expanded its offerings and strengthened its position as a global competitor in library management, material handling, and digital media.

System services provider Civica changed ownership through its acquisition by Partners Group from OMERS Private Equity in a deal valued at more than $1 billion.

Publishers and workflow technologies

Consistent with the trend of content companies becoming more involved in technology platforms and tools, Elsevier acquired Bepress in August 2017. Bepress offers Digital Commons, a commercial institutional repository platform in a field dominated by open source products. Elsevier also acquired altmetrics company Plum Analytics from EBSCO Information Services in February 2017. These transactions continue Elsevier’s recent moves to position itself as an analytics and workflow company and not just a publisher of scholarly content. Also exemplifying this trend is Clarivate Analytics’ acquisition in June 2017 of the Publons service that assists researchers in tracking and showcasing peer review activities.

Academic libraries

In previous cycles of technology development, index-based discovery services and LSPs emerged to support access, discovery, and management of complex, multiformat collections. Discovery services such as Primo and Summon from ProQuest, OCLC’s WorldCat Discovery Service, and EBSCO Discovery Service have become well established. Most academic libraries have invested in one of these broad-based search tools. Discovery of library-provided resources remains a complex issue with many unfulfilled expectations. Most institutions are using an index-based discovery service, but many challenges remain in improving discoverability in other contexts, especially through general search engines. LSPs have seen widespread adoption, enabling academic and research libraries to manage print and electronic collections through a sophisticated set of interrelated task workflows. Ex Libris’s Alma currently dominates LSPs, with OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services (WMS) holding a strong secondary position. FOLIO remains in the wings poised to join—or even disrupt—the competition once a functional product has been delivered.

LSPs are now the mainstream approach for supporting resource management and daily operations of academic libraries. These products have not yet become ubiquitous, though they continue to dominate in new procurement scenarios. A significant proportion of academic libraries rely on longstanding ILS implementations. A large portion of these libraries are engaged in selection processes that will culminate in the continuing decline of the ILS in this sector.

The advent of the open source FOLIO initiative has drawn the attention of many academic libraries concerned with the narrow slate of commercial choices and interested in exploring alternatives. At least some of these libraries have deferred decisions to move from their legacy ILS to one of the established LSPs until it becomes evident whether FOLIO can offer a competitive alternative.

Ex Libris, owned by ProQuest since December 2015, continues as the dominant technology provider for academic libraries. It is pressing forward to create new products to support library involvement with the broader institution. ProQuest ranks as one of the largest companies offering library products and services. The company has a complex ownership structure: Cambridge Information Group holds the controlling shares; Goldman Sachs has also made significant investments.

Matti Shem-Tov, president and CEO of Ex Libris since 2003, was appointed the top executive for ProQuest in November 2017, succeeding Kurt Sanford, who had led the company since July 2011. Shem-Tov has seen Ex Libris through four ownership arrangements, culminating in its acquisition by ProQuest. With Shem-Tov at the helm, Bar Veinstein advances to the position of president of Ex Libris from his former role as executive vice president of resource management.

Ex Libris’s Alma LSP has gained a substantial installed base five years beyond its first use at Boston College, with Carnegie Mellon University as its 1,000th customer. Forty-five members of the Association of Research Libraries have selected Alma. Migrations to Alma this year came mostly from those using its Aleph (117 libraries) and Voyager (18) ILS products, though it captured academics using ILS products from competing companies, including Symphony (19), Library.Solution (12), Millennium (10), and Sierra (5). Most Alma deals come packaged with its Primo discovery service, though beginning in 2017 Summon has become a supported option. Ex Libris also supports open source discovery interfaces such as VuFind and Blacklight. No business agreement has been reached to enable EBSCO Discovery Service to fully interoperate with Alma.

Ex Libris faces immediate competition from OCLC’s WMS and potential disruption by FOLIO, but since 2012 it has seen increasing adoptions of Alma. The service is an immediately available option for academic libraries that want to replace aging legacy systems and invest in new areas of strategic interest to their institutions. Although Alma has matured through about seven years of development, Ex Libris continues to enhance it with features consistent with its own development agenda and through recommendations from libraries using the product. New versions are deployed monthly.

Ex Libris intends to include BIBFRAME in the development agenda for Alma. Support for BIBFRAME will be phased in, enabling libraries using Alma to transition gradually to the new metadata framework without disrupting their existing workflows based on MARC or Dublin Core.

Throughout its corporate history, Ex Libris has expanded its business by creating products in nontraditional categories. Its commercialization of SFX in 1999, for example, launched the genre of OpenURL-based link resolvers. The company moved into digital preservation with Rosetta in 2009. Its Leganto reading list management application, launched in 2015, has been implemented in 45 institutions as of February. CampusM, acquired in April 2015, provides a mobile-oriented content delivery platform for the broader campus and has been implemented in 81 institutions, including 50 in the UK.

Responding to the need for universities to better manage, assess, and showcase their research programs, Ex Libris launched its new research services platform, Esploro, in February. Developed in partnership with five major universities in the US and UK, Esploro will create a new set of services based on the Alma platform in support of such research activities as tracking research publications, funding opportunities, and creating researcher profiles, and will provide reports and analytics. Esploro addresses three key stakeholders within the university: individual researchers, the institutional research office responsible for administration and compliance of funded projects, and librarians providing research support. Esploro taps into other ProQuest assets, such as Pivot, a comprehensive repository of funding opportunities available to researchers.

OCLC’s WMS is another highly competitive LSP. Although its level of adoption ranks below that of Alma, WMS supports a comprehensive set of workflows for print and electronic resources through web-based interfaces and a multitenant platform. Midsized academic libraries represent the largest number of implementations, though some very large and complex organizations also selected WMS in 2017. Following the 2017 launch of Voilà, a new national union catalog for Canada, Library and Archives Canada will transition from its locally developed AMICUS ILS to WMS.

In 2017, OCLC launched Digby, a new mobile app for WMS, supporting staff activities performed away from service desks, such as retrieving lists of requested items from the stacks and reshelving materials.

OCLC continues to support and enhance the CONTENTdm digital asset management platform. The product is currently used in more than 2,500 institutions. Major enhancements include redesigned interfaces and internal technologies. CONTENTdm now supports International Image Interoperability Framework–defined image and presentation APIs, enabling digital images to be accessed through a variety of external tools and platforms.

EBSCO Information Services ranks as one of the largest organizations providing content and technology products. It operates as the largest subsidiary of EBSCO Industries, a holding company with a diverse range of business activities. EBSCO is owned by the Stephens family, who founded the company and controls its board of directors. Tim Collins, long-standing president of EBSCO Information Services, has also served as chief executive officer of EBSCO Industries since July 2014. Last year that role was assumed by David Walker, with Collins now focusing on the leadership of EBSCO Information Services.

On the content front, EBSCOhost databases span many disciplines and involve high-quality subject indexing performed by experts and supplemented by technical processes. EBSCO continues to be one of the few remaining serials subscription agents. In addition to brokering serials for libraries, EBSCO offers GOBI as a tool for ordering books.

Among its technology products, deployed through software as a service, is EBSCO Discovery Service, which has been implemented by more libraries than any competing index-based discovery service. In recent years, EBSCO has reworked its products for managing and linking to electronic resources into Full Text Finder, which includes a comprehensive knowledge base of e-resources and holdings as well as an interface for users to gain access to their library’s subscribed resources.

EBSCO has helped launch the FOLIO project to develop an open source LSP, in addition to the content and technology products it offers directly. The company has made major investments to fund the project and has provided direct and indirect support for its design and development.

The FOLIO project offers a fresh idea in library resource management, with a modular approach to functionality implemented through microservices architecture. EBSCO has provided funding and direction to Index Data, an open source development firm, to create its core infrastructure. Index Data championed the project throughout the library community, familiar with its work as a major developer of open source technology components used within a variety of environments.

EBSCO envisions FOLIO as a technology framework that will disrupt the current market of LSPs that are tightly bundled with their own discovery services. These bundled offerings result in a competitive environment that disadvantages EBSCO Discovery Service, despite its efforts to integrate with all the major ILSes. FOLIO’s modular design will accommodate any discovery product and EBSCO will naturally ensure that its own products are integrated.

While FOLIO generally aligns with its product strategies, EBSCO will not exert direct control over the project. The governance of the FOLIO project is shared among multiple stakeholders, including the Open Library Environment, an expanding array of organizations participating in its development; libraries that lend resources to the project; and EBSCO, which has made the most substantial financial investments. The Open Library Foundation is the official entity that holds the copyrights associated with the software and handles other legal and administrative activities.

The FOLIO project has been in development for about two years. If current timelines prevail, libraries will begin using it by late 2018 or in 2019. Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden has stepped forward as a pilot site for its services.

This year has seen significant expansion for the project. Ten organizations are involved in its development, including Index Data, EBSCO, Stacks, Qulto, and Frontside Software. Libraries participate in FOLIO through software development and by providing experts to help with functional requirements, testing and quality assurance, and education and promotion.

An initial version of FOLIO capable of providing basic library automation has not been released. To date, no libraries have implemented FOLIO, so there are no statistics to report and its economic impact remains difficult to assess. The libraries committed to the project mean lost opportunities for proprietary LSPs.

TIND offers a suite of products based on technology developed at the CERN research facility in Switzerland. Although a startup with less than a dozen employees, it is establishing itself both in the US and internationally.

The company made a high-profile entry into the US market when Caltech libraries selected TIND ILS. This year Caltech became the first organization to implement the TIND RDM as a research data repository. The Caltech Data Repository enables any researcher to submit data sets for preservation.

This year the UC Berkeley Law Library selected the TIND ILS and will enhance its serials and acquisitions modules. Millersville (Pa.) University migrated to TIND Digital Asset Management from CONTENTdm.

ILS companies

SirsiDynix and Innovative Interfaces are the two largest companies competing in the ILS arena that have not been absorbed by one of the top-level industry players. Both tried to transform their long-standing successful but aging ILS products into platforms based on modern architectures that can support libraries across multiple sectors. SirsiDynix and Innovative both have academic libraries as a large percentage of their customer base and face challenges defending themselves against companies such as Ex Libris that offer ever-expanding products and services designed specifically for academia.

For the last five years SirsiDynix has worked to complete its BLUEcloud suite. The company’s two flagship ILS products Symphony and Horizon, though stable and rich in features, are based on aging internal architectures and use graphical staff clients that must be installed on computers throughout the library to access backend features. The BLUEcloud suite features web-based interfaces, delivered through a multitenant platform, that can work with either of its ILS products.

The development of BLUEcloud has taken many years. It will ultimately enable the company to offer a fully web-based environment without the need for local staff clients. The project faces challenges to deliver the advanced functionality seen in the graphical staff clients through a web-based interface. Until each BLUEcloud module reaches that sophistication, libraries can continue to use the graphical clients or have a mixed environment. For the modules replicating similar functionality, libraries can use the BLUEcloud versions without additional cost beyond their standard maintenance fees. BLUEcloud modules providing new capabilities are offered as added cost options. SirsiDynix reports that more than 2,000 of its customers have adopted at least one of the BLUEcloud modules.

This year SirsiDynix introduced BLUEcloud Mobile, an app designed for library users to discover and access library resources. BLUEcloud Mobile supersedes the company’s previous mobile apps, such as BookMyne. BLUEcloud Mobile followed an accelerated development timeline. Announced in March 2017, its initial version was delivered by the fourth quarter of the year. This product has been well received, with more sales in its initial year than any of its other products. Enhancements to BLUEcloud Mobile planned for 2018 include the capabilities to work with non-SirsiDynix ILS products.

SirsiDynix attributes the rapid development to its comprehensive APIs and web services architecture inherent in the BLUEcloud platform. The company states that investments it has made in supporting this integration layer will enable speedy development of future modules and apps.

Work continues on BLUEcloud Acquisitions, developed in partnership with the South Australian Public Library Network. The module is currently running as a live pilot and is expected to be made available to all customers this year. SirsiDynix also continues development of BLUEcloud eResource Management, based on the code of the open source Coral platform.

In a separate development effort, SirsiDynix has created SymphonyWeb as a web-based version of its Symphony ILS. The company’s long-term strategic direction continues to be based on BLUEcloud, but it also needs to support clients who need a fully web-based ILS. SymphonyWeb uses web interfaces that directly interact with a Symphony server making use of proprietary mechanisms rather than operating through the more open web services layer.

SirsiDynix signed 90 new contracts for Symphony in 2017 (down from 143 reported in 2016) and added 10 libraries to Horizon. Twenty-eight libraries selected its EOS.Web ILS.

Innovative Interfaces, marking its 40th year in business, has developed multiple generations of ILS products and has cultivated a large customer base in almost all regions of the world. On the ILS front, the company offers two flagship products: Sierra, the latest generation of its internally developed system, and Polaris, which it acquired in 2014. Sierra has been implemented by libraries of all types in many countries. Polaris was designed specifically for public libraries and has not been implemented outside the United States and Canada. Innovative also continues to support Millennium, the predecessor to Sierra, though its implementations continue to decline as libraries upgrade or shift to other products. The company has developed Encore as its strategic discovery interface. Encore Duet combines this discovery interface with the article-level index of EBSCO Discovery Service for mutual customers of those products. Innovative Resource Sharing, formerly INN-Reach and ArticleReach, supports consortial borrowing among libraries using different ILS products. The VITAL digital asset management system, based on Fedora, was acquired from VTLS and continues to be developed and supported. Virtua, the ILS acquired from VTLS, is no longer being actively marketed and developed.

Product development activities carried out in 2017 include enhancements to Sierra to improve scalability that allows it to serve large organizations. An expanded set of APIs was created to address additional patron and accounting transactions.

Polaris was originally developed with Windows-based staff clients. In recent years, a new set of web-based staff applications has been developed to form the Polaris Web Application, formerly branded as Leap. It was enhanced in 2017 to operate in multiple languages, support Unicode, and follow a responsive design. New APIs have been implemented for Innovative Resource Sharing to enable interoperability with ILS products outside of Innovative’s own offerings without the need for the cumbersome direct consortial borrowing transaction broker.

Innovative announced an initiative to develop a new platform based on native linked data architecture to support a new set of technology products and services. Dubbed the Context Engine, this platform transforms existing MARC formats into linked data, integrating external data sources into its internal repositories and allowing the library to deliver experiences to its users based on their research interests or demographic characteristics. Innovative reports that it has completed a proof of concept for the Context Engine, and it plans to release a context-based discovery service in 2018 as well as a discovery-based analytics service.

Innovative is owned by investment firms HGGC and JMI Equity Partners. James Tallman has been its CEO since January 2016. Innovative recently appointed three new executives: Kathryn Harnish as senior vice president for product strategy, Amy Hayes as senior vice president for marketing, and Tom Jacobson, a veteran of the company, returned as vice president, executive library advocate and strategist.

The Library Corporation (TLC) provides automation products and bibliographical services for public and school libraries. Its Library.Solution finds use primarily in midsized public libraries and school districts. This year saw the selection of Library.Solution by two major school districts in Texas. Now in its version 5.0 release, Library.Solution continues to see substantial ongoing development. The LS2 Cataloging Module enables a wide range of staff members who process materials, including those without extensive cataloging skills, to quickly and accurately describe library materials.

CARL•X, designed for larger libraries, has seen a surge of interest, with selections by two major organizations: Somerset County (N.J.) Library System and the Library Network, a consortium of 75 libraries in southeast Michigan.

In addition to its ILS products, TLC has also introduced its SmartTECH line of products, which provides materials for hands-on STEM learning experiences.

Auto-Graphics, the only publicly traded company in the industry, offers both the VERSO ILS and the SHAREit resource-sharing and ILL platform. Both products target public libraries. The company strives to increase the reach of VERSO to larger public libraries and to position SHAREit as a platform able to work with all major ILS products through established standards and protocols. Small and midsized libraries have been the target audience for VERSO, but the product is also used by larger libraries. Auto-Graphics has enhanced VERSO with features of interest to multibranch public libraries. VERSO was selected by 23 libraries in 2017, increasing total installations to 525. In May 2017 the company released a Library Mobile for VERSO mobile app.

This year SHAREit was selected by the Vermont Department of Libraries to provide wider access of materials to 549 libraries. The product has been implemented for ILL and resource sharing in 14 states.

Public libraries

BiblioCommons specializes in patron interfaces for public libraries. BiblioCore is its discovery service that extends the conventional relevancy-based search and faceted navigation to include such social features as the creation and sharing of resource lists. BiblioWeb serves as a comprehensive portal for a public library, standing in for its entire website. BiblioCommons stands out as the only commercial interface able to displace the built-in catalogs of major ILS products. In 2017, the company reworked the search facility of BiblioCore for faster and smoother performance. BiblioWeb improved compliance to accessibility standards and refined usability. About a dozen libraries implemented BiblioCore or BiblioWeb in 2017.

BiblioCommons reported a total workforce of 69 in 2017, with 54 allocated to development, a much higher proportion than any other company.

Open source ILS

ByWater Solutions offers commercial support services to libraries using open source products. The company has become the leading provider in the US for services surrounding the open source Koha ILS. The company works primarily with public and academic libraries, but it also includes school and special libraries among its clientele.

The company reached an important threshold when it was selected by the libraries of Virginia Tech University to support their migration from Sierra to the Koha ILS and Coral electronic resource management system. It entered a partnership with EBSCO Information Services to provide support for the open source FOLIO LSP. The partnership will be based on hosting infrastructure EBSCO and ByWater Solutions delivering customer support services.

ByWater has attracted libraries using major ILS products to Koha, including those using Symphony (13 libraries), Library.Solution (6), Millennium (6), Sierra (3), WorldShare Management Services (1), and the open source Evergreen ILS (3). With comprehensive support services from ByWater Solutions, libraries can move to an open source ILS with no more internal technical expertise required for a proprietary product.

The Equinox Open Library Initiative, operating as a nonprofit corporation, provides services for libraries using open source technologies, including the Evergreen ILS for consortia; Koha, which it supports for standalone libraries; and FulfILLment, a resource-sharing environment. Equinox has developed Sequoia, a multitenant environment for hosting deployments of open source applications with high reliability and stability, with tools for deployment, monitoring, and other advanced capabilities required by a high-capacity data center.

In addition to hosting and support services, Equinox remains deeply involved in the ongoing development of Evergreen. The organization retains some of the original developers of the software created for the PINES consortium in Georgia. In 2017 efforts were concentrated on developing web-based staff interfaces able to replace the previous clients, which needed to be installed on local computers. With this work complete, Equinox commenced migrating its customers to the new clients in 2017 and will continue the process through 2018.

School and small libraries

Follett School Solutions operates as a business unit of Follett Corporation, one of the largest organizations offering library products and services. This division employs 1,482 people, with 169 involved in software development.

Library software represents a relatively small portion of Follett’s overall business activities. The broader organization also operates college bookstores, distributes educational materials, and provides training across multiple practical professions. Baker & Taylor, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Follett, contributes around $1 billion to the company annually through global sales to libraries and retail outlets. The company is privately owned by the Follett family, with estimated revenues of more than $3 billion.

The Destiny library management system, though a relatively small portion of the company’s business activities, ranks as the dominant product in pre-K–12 libraries in the United States.

Biblionix has developed its web-based Apollo ILS primarily for small public libraries, though the company continues to reach into the midsized league. Now in its 11th year, the company remains privately owned and profitable. In 2017, 56 new libraries subscribed to Apollo, increasing the total installations to 664. In recent years Apollo has attracted libraries previously operating larger ILS products, including Polaris (5 libraries), Library.Solution (3), Symphony (3), Sierra (2), and Millennium (1) in addition to those moving from other products oriented to small libraries. Apollo improved its catalog search results, fine collection, and catalog display status this year.

Book Systems’ Atriuum ILS is mostly used by small public and K–12 school libraries. The company continues to offer Concourse, a legacy product which has not seen significant decline in use, with 9,933 installations continuing in 2017.

The company made multiple enhancements to Atriuum this year, including integration of content from ProQuest Syndetics for its OPAC Snapshot Unbound module, which is deployed through a mobile friendly responsive design. Book Systems offers a mobile app to collect payments using services such as Square, PayPal, and ProPay. The Librista patron-facing app includes new search capabilities, access to community events, and personal account management. Librista can be easily connected to any library using Atriuum. Additional interoperability capabilities were developed this year, including single sign-in using Google, resource sharing with OCLC WMS using NISO Circulation Interchange Protocol, additional integrations with ebook lending platforms from Hoopla and Bibliotheca’s cloudLibrary, and an extension of its capabilities with OverDrive.

Mandarin Library Automation specializes in technology products for small libraries, including K–12 schools, public libraries, colleges, and other organizations. Its current product, Mandarin M5, is a web-based application available for installation on local computers or as a hosted service. The previous product, Mandarin M3, remains in use and continues to see new installations. This year the company focused on the development of a new reports module for Mandarin M5. The module will be delivered with a variety of standard reports. Customized reports can be created by the company’s support personnel, which are then available for use by the library.

COMPanion Corporation offers the Alexandria ILS, primarily used by K–12 schools and other small libraries. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of Alexandria. The company has recently developed the capability for integration between Alexandria or Textbook Tracker, and a school or district student information system through a partnership with Clever.

Libraries purchasing Alexandria are entitled to all future software enhancements without additional cost beyond standard support fees. New updates are issued monthly. COMPanion has invested in cloud hosting capabilities that enable libraries to use the product with lower technical overhead.

Alexandria is the second-largest provider of library software to the K–12 school market in the US, with installations in more than 14,000 individual libraries. COMPanion is a privately-owned company. Although it does not comment on specific revenue or profit statistics, it reports that it operates with adequate cash flow and working capital to sustain its business, and has little or no debt obligations.

LibraryWorld serves small libraries with limited budgets, offering a fully web-based library automation system available at an affordable price. The company did not report statistics on new adoptions this year, but the total number of installations stands at 3,373. Developments in 2017 include incorporating support for the Z39.50 standard, allowing libraries to make their collections available to resource sharing environments or other applications using this protocol. All libraries using LibraryWorld enjoy access to new capabilities without additional cost beyond established subscription fees.

Special libraries

Keystone Systems has traditionally specialized in the relatively small niche of libraries serving individuals with visual disabilities with its KLAS integrated library system. These libraries typically fulfill much of the resources requested by their users through mail and other delivery services. This year, Keystone expanded with new library software modules geared toward serving professional associations. Features addressed in this package include personalized member profiles, user-contributed content, browsing based on interest categories, and integration with the core management systems used by the association. A small, privately-owned company, Keystone has 16 employees, a slight increase from 2016.

Lucidea specializes in technologies for corporate, legal, and special libraries and has accumulated a broad portfolio of products through the acquisition of other companies also involved in this arena. Besides making new business acquisitions, Lucidea continues to enhance each of its products. In 2017, the company established Lucidea Press, a publishing division offering professional development resources geared toward librarians and knowledge management professionals.

Soutron Global focuses on products for corporate, legal, and other special libraries. The company continues to enhance the Soutron ILS. Acquisitions and serials modules were developed for the product in 2017, featuring a new user interface that allows simpler data entry and processing workflows. The company also modernized the technical architecture. Remaining with the Microsoft technology stack, it replaced existing .Net routines with equivalent .Net Core components.

The company saw an uptick in interest in its Archival product in 2017, both by existing clients adding this capability to their implementations and by new customers. Soutron has also expanded its customer base to include many organizations with nontraditional library collections. The company notes a trend of organizations consolidating data from multiple legacy implementations into single unified environments.

The international scene

Although the library technology industry includes quite a few global companies, many remain active only within a given country or region. A full understanding of the industry requires consideration of companies and products not well known in the US. Considerable innovation can be seen in these organizations, and future phases of business may bring them to new geographic markets.

Axiell has entered a phase of ambitious product development through the introduction of an LSP for public libraries and a web-based product for schools. Although the company lacks a major presence in libraries in the US and Canada, it ranks as one of the larger library technology companies globally, with a workforce of 305—a number that has increased annually since 2009.

As one of the major providers for public libraries, museums, and archives in other countries, Axiell holds an important position in the global industry. Its library products are dominant in Scandinavian countries and serve a small but significant percentage of libraries in the UK. Ann Melaerts, previously leading the library business for INFOR, joined Axiell in August 2017 as vice president and business area director for its public libraries division.

Its current profile was established through a series of mergers of companies providing library automation throughout Scandinavia and the UK in the early to mid-2000s. Following its initial period of consolidation, Axiell continued to support the full range of products created by the organizations it subsumed. Only in recent years has the company begun to phase them out. Libraries using Origo, Libra, and PallasPro are encouraged to adopt its other actively developed and supported products. This move will narrow the previous glut of products to a single supported offering per country.

Axiell has introduced WeLib, a web-based library management system for schools. Initially created for school libraries in Sweden, Axiell plans to market it in other countries in 2018. WeLib has been implemented in about one quarter of school libraries in Sweden.

Besides its involvement with maintaining its traditional ILS product line, Axiell has launched Quria, an ambitious project to create an LSP for public libraries. This product embraces the key technical and functional characteristics of the genre, but designed for public libraries. Quria has been deployed on a web-native multitenant platform, focusing initially on management and delivery of digital content but also including the traditional features needed for print collections. Following the successful completion of its initial version, Quria has been implemented in the Drammen Public Library in Norway. Northamptonshire libraries have opted to partner with Axiell as a pilot site for the first implementation of Quria in the UK.

In a public library technology arena dominated by long-standing ILS products, Quria represents a unique position as an LSP developed with a fresh look at digital-first expectations deployed through contemporary architectures and components. Quria will not only provide an eventual migration option for libraries using legacy ILS products, but may also provide Axiell an opportunity to enter additional geographic markets.

Civica specializes in providing software and business process outsourcing to a wide range of government agencies and departments. Responsibility for the Spydus ILS falls within the company’s libraries and education business and represents a tiny portion of Civica’s total business activity. Spydus has seen a long evolution spanning three decades. Civica’s library products have been implemented in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the UK, with a small presence in the US and Canada. Several libraries in Australia selected Spydus, many of which moved from Amlib systems which are no longer fully supported by OCLC. In early 2018 the company was reselected by the National Library Board of Singapore following a comprehensive search. In addition to new contracts, some of its existing consortia expended to include more libraries, both in the UK and Australia.

In 2017, Spydus focused on the development of Version 11, completing the long-standing process of transition to all web-based interfaces with the reports as the final module to be transitioned. With a fully web-based system, libraries will no longer have to manage client software on local computers, significantly reducing operational overhead. Future development will focus on addressing new areas of functionality.

Infor Library and Information Solutions is a small business unit of Infor, a large software and services firm involved in a wide range of business sectors. Its library business employs 65 people. Intended primarily for public libraries, Infor offers the V-smart ILS as its flagship product. Vubis Smart, the previous version, also remains in use. A specialized version of the product, V@ school, serves school libraries. Infor also offers Iguana, a comprehensive portal for libraries, which can be deployed to replace a library’s entire website. This year Infor began a major rewrite of Iguana, with will be released as Version 5. Iguana DAM was recently released to provide a digital asset management solution for libraries.

In 2017, the company’s product suite updated all web-based interfaces with a responsive design and enhancements to meet requirements for accessibility. New APIs have been implemented across each product to enable greater openness and interoperability with external applications. V-smart has been enhanced to support BIBFRAME for bibliographic metadata. Ebook lending has been streamlined through the integration with OverDrive.

This year saw a major leadership change, with the departure of Melaerts and the appointment of Jean-François Piat, formerly responsible for the company’s library activities in France.

Capita Libraries is a business unit within a large company that provides technology and outsourcing to a variety of local government services. The company’s ILS, Alto, branded as Soprano, is offered exclusively in the UK. New clients included Black Country Libraries, including library services in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton. Capita reported 30 people employed by its library division.

PTFS Europe provides support services for open source software applications, primarily the Koha ILS and the Coral electronic resource management system. The company also distributes the Knowvation digital asset management system produced by PTFS, the US company with which PTFS Europe is loosely associated.

The company saw a significant spike in new support contracts in 2017, with 30 libraries selecting Koha based on its services. Many of these contracts were from major universities or government agencies migrating from mainline proprietary products. PTFS Europe, in partnership with Interleaf Technology, was awarded a major contract to provide Koha, Coral, and rebus:list to the 13 Institutes of Technology in Ireland, and is a framework agreement that makes the product suite potentially available to all academic institutions in Ireland.

This year PTFS Europe divested its rebus:list reading list management solution to Kortext and the UK Copyright Licensing Agency. These organizations plan significant enhancements to the product. This divestment also enables PTFS Europe to focus more resources on its support services. Interest in reading list management systems emerged early in the UK. Rebus:list, launched by PTFS in 2012, represented an alternative to Talis Aspire, which since its release in 2009 has dominated this niche. Ex Libris joined the competition in this product genre in 2015 with its launch of Leganto.

Baratz, based in Madrid, provides its AbsysNet ILS to libraries in Spain, France, and Latin America. In 2017, its development efforts focused on adapting its web-based interfaces to a responsive design in support of all screen sizes and devices. In addition to ongoing enhancements to the current version of AbsysNet, Baratz continues the development of a new-generation version, embodying new architectures and technology components. Both the current and next generation of AbsysNet have been empowered with a rich set of APIs to enable connection with external resources and systems. The company has grown its workforce to 80 employees, an increase from 76 in 2016.

Though not active in the US, Prima is well established as a provider of technology products to libraries in Brazil, with a growing international footprint. The company has more than 100 installations in Spain and is expanding into other countries in Latin America.

Prima offers two major ILSes—SophiA for all types of larger libraries and Philos for school libraries—and has recently developed web-based versions of both products. The company now emphasizes its software as a service offering and is working to migrate its clients using the legacy client software to the hosted web-based version. Prima also developed a data mining tool, able to work with a data warehouse populated by data from the library’s ILS to reveal statistical trends and indicators relating to collection development, circulation of materials, patron activity, and online catalog use patterns. The interface, delivered through an HTML5 application, allows a librarian to examine data in a variety of ways, applying filters, producing exportable graphs or tables, and selecting views by an individual library facility or an entire system or consortium.

Prima recently integrated a variety of external services, including EBSCO Discovery Service, the ODILO ebook lending platform, and content providers such as Elsevier and Pearson, as well as Brazilian publishers and digital services.

Sales leaders and trends

Companies saw continued momentum in the LSP arena in 2017, especially with academic libraries moving away from ILS products in favor of the broader scope of management options available with LSPs. ILSes continue to reign as the dominant solution for public libraries.

Ex Libris enjoyed robust sales across different products. Alma had its strongest sales year ever in 2017—166 contracts representing 266 libraries, with 1,095 total libraries using or installing the product. The company supplements sales of its flagship LSP with sales of Primo (126), 360 Link (54), SFX (33), Aleph (6), Rosetta (3), and 360 Resource Manager (1). The Leganto list manager saw 37 new sales.

OCLC inked 52 new contracts spanning 54 libraries for WMS, resulting in an installed base of 521 libraries. It also continues to support legacy ILS products, mostly in Europe, for ongoing revenue. OCLC’s resource sharing products, such as Tipasa, represent further opportunities for business.

SirsiDynix led in ILS sales with 90 contracts. Down significantly from 142 contracts in 2016, the company’s 2017 numbers are still impressive in a year of depressed sales among traditional ILS products. SirsiDynix saw strong sales of premium BLUEcloud modules: Enterprise (89), Analytics (51), MobileCirc (33), eResource Central (30), Portfolio (24), and Visibility (20). EOS.Web had 28 new contracts with 1,078 total installations. Total installations of Symphony stand at 2,551.

Innovative reported 31 new contracts for Sierra (61 libraries, 931 total installations). Polaris continues to be marketed, but had only two new sales (26 libraries, 557 cumulative installations).

In the small public library arena, Biblionix made 56 new sales for Apollo, increasing installations to 664. While these numbers are impressive, they represent a lower level of revenue relative to companies dealing with larger libraries.

In the open source arena, ByWater Solutions signed 47 service contracts for Koha and increased its overall base to 996 libraries—down from the 70 new contracts the company signed in 2016, but still a strong showing in a year of high ILS turnover.

Note: The Library Systems Report 2018 documents on­going investments of libraries in strategic technology products made in 2017. It covers organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit, offering strategic resource management products—especially integrated library systems and library services platforms—and comprehensive discovery products. The vendors included have responded to a survey requesting details about their organization, sales performance, and narrative explanations of accomplishments. Additional sources consulted include press releases, news articles, and other publicly available information. Most of the organizations provided lists of libraries represented in the statistics reported, allowing for more detailed analysis and validation. Product listings in the vendor directory are not comprehensive. A vendor directory and charts with statistics on sales trends and installations are available here.

Healthcare Informatics Recognized with ASHPE Award for 2017 Top Ten Tech Trends Report – Healthcare Informatics

The majority of health care executives (91 percent) are confident they will see a return on investment (ROI) on artificial intelligence investments, although not immediately, and foresee the greatest impact of AI will be on improving health care, according to an OptumIQ survey.

Most (94 percent) health care leaders responded that their organizations continue to invest in and make progress in implementing AI, with 75 percent of healthcare organizations say they are implementing AI or have plans to execute an AI strategy, based on OptumIQ’s survey of 500 senior U.S. healthcare industry executives, primarily from hospitals clinics and health systems, life sciences organizations, health plans and employers. OptumIQ is the intelligence arm of data and analytics of Optum, an information and technology-enabled health services business that is part of UnitedHealth Group.

While many healthcare organizations have plans, progress is mixed across sectors. Of the 75 percent who are implementing AI or have plans to execute an AI strategy, 42 percent of those organizations have a strategy but have not yet implemented it. Employers are furthest along, with 22 percent reporting their AI implementations are at a late stage, with nearly full deployment.

The average AI implementation is estimated to cost $32.4 million over five years. The majority of respondents (65 percent) do not expect to see a ROI before four years with the average expected period being five years. However, employers (38 percent) and health plans (20 percent) expect ROI sooner, in three years or less, according to the survey.

The survey found that health care leaders universally agree the greatest impact of AI investment will be on improving health care. Thirty-six percent expect AI will improve the patient experience; 33 percent anticipate AI will decrease per-capita cost of care; and 31 percent believe AI will improve health outcomes.

Most health care leaders believe AI can make care more affordable and accessible. Ninety-four percent of respondents agree that AI technology is the most reliable path toward equitable, accessible and affordable health care.

AI will make care more precise and faster, according to respondents. The top two benefits respondents expect to see from incorporating AI into their organizations are more accurate diagnosis and increased efficiency.

The survey found that respondents are looking to AI to solve immediate data challenges – from routine tasks to truly understanding consumers’ health needs. Of those health organizations that are already investing in and implementing AI:

  • 43 percent are automating business processes, such as administrative operations or customer service;
  • 36 percent are using AI to detect patterns in health care fraud, waste and abuse; and
  • 31 percent are using AI to monitor users with Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as a wearable technology

With more organizations seeing the benefit of adopting an AI strategy, 92 percent agree that hiring candidates who have experience working with AI technology is a priority for their organization. To meet this need, nearly half (45 percent) of health care leaders estimate that more than 30 percent of new hires will be in positions requiring engagement with or implementation of AI in the next 12 months. However, health organizations seeking to hire experienced staff will likely face talent shortages.

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform health care by helping predict disease and putting the right insights into the hands of clinicians as they treat patients, which can reduce the total cost of care,” Eric Murphy, CEO of OptumInsight, said.

“Analytics isn’t the end, it’s the beginning – it’s what you do with the insights to drive care improvement and reduce administrative waste,” Steve Griffiths, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Optum Enterprise Analytics, said. “For AI to successfully solve health care’s biggest challenges, organizations need to employ a unique combination of curated data, analytics and health care expertise… We are already seeing a race for AI talent in the industry that will grow as adoption continues to increase.”

Sponsored: The 10 best universities for game development programs – Gamasutra

Presented by 80 LEVEL

Game development resource 80 LEVEL has compiled a comprehensive list of the “10 Best Universities for Game Development.” The mini-site, to be updated annually, will help aspiring game developers find the best fit for the programs they’re seeking with information on curriculum, educational staff, student success stories, and more.

To assist students interested in the world of video game development, 80 LEVEL analyzed more than 105 universities for both undergraduate and graduate programs, and these are the results for the top 10:

DigiPen is a private school, which was founded back in 1988 by Claude Comair. In 1998 they became the first school in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in video game development. Today, DigiPen is a prominent school for games and technology, with campuses in the US (Redmond, Washington), Singapore, and Spain.

The curriculum here is pretty versatile, covering a number of different topics, including computer science, game design, music and sound design, and digital art and animation. DigiPen also has an active R&D department, which develops tech for different clients including Boeing, Formula One and INDYCAR.

University of Southern California is a large private school located in Los Angeles. It was founded in 1880, nearly a hundred years before the videogame industry. The Interactive Media & Games Division was added to the school’s extensive portfolio in 2001. Today, USC Games is considered one of the best in US by the Princeton Review. This was achieved thanks to the close collaboration between the faculty members of Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and the Interactive Media & Games Division.

Michigan State University was founded in 1855 and is a public research university in East Lansing, Michigan. MSU is one of the largest universities in the United States (in terms of enrollment) and has approximately 552,000 living alumni worldwide. It’s famous for its research contributions, sports activities and game development courses.

The Game Design and Development Program at Michigan State University was founded back in 2005, and has grown leaps and bounds into a Top 10 Ranked program by the Princeton Review. The program involves a mix of disciplines and backgrounds, comprised of Designers, Artists and Programmers.

The Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE: MGS, MEAE) provides a very interesting opportunity to jump into the wonderful world of videogame design for students enrolling at the University of Utah. This educational establishment provides an intriguing cohort model, where students remain together throughout the entire two years of the program! There are four possible tracks to apply for: Game Arts, Game Engineering, Game Production, or Technical Art. Plus there’s a lot of nice electives in videogame development.

Students enrolled in the Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering degree program (MEAE) are typically interested in careers in interactive entertainment. The curriculum is built with this goal in mind. The university also offers the opportunity to develop and enhance a professional game portfolio through our “studio simulation” projects courses.

MIT is internationally recognized as one of the best technical schools in the world. It’s no wonder they also excel in videogame development. Actually, there’s a whole new division called MIT Game Lab, which deals with game design and e-sports, helping to train the next generation of game creators.

Full Sail University is a private university based in Florida. Widely appreciated for the amazing music education (41 Full Sail graduates were credited on 46 artists’ releases that were nominated in 36 separate categories during the 2017 Grammy Awards), this school also provides many courses for future game developers. There are a number of Bachelors and Masters degrees available in Game Art, Game Design, Game Development and Mobile Gaming. Most of these courses are available online as well as on campus.

The Center for Games and Playable Media at UC Santa Cruz was formally established in 2010, building on work done since the founding of their videogame degree. The center houses the school’s five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world.

There is a great diversity in the faculty’s topics of research. Projects range from work on artificial intelligence and interactive storytelling to natural language dialogue systems, cinematic communication, procedural content generation, human computer interaction, rehabilitation games, computational photography, and level design. Members of the group have published in some of the most respected journals in the fields of game studies, game AI, and game culture. Currently, the group has more than 20 active research grants on games and is the only non-European university taking part in the European Union’s SIREN Project.

Oklahoma Christian University provides a wonderful opportunity to get a degree in gaming and animation. Game artists and animation students are introduced to the tools and principles used by the animation and game development industries. Integral to the university’s game development philosophy is the notion that you don’t just spend your time in classes, but also go on studio and conference field trips, and explore animation and game development career opportunities. The curriculum is pretty broad, covering traditional, 3D, and experimental animation. Their classes do not just concentrate on 3D modeling, but also involve learning texturing, rigging and game production. Also included are courses on the history of film, video, and animation, which can serve as an excellent way to get the necessary background knowledge for game development.

The Garvey Center for the Arts is the home of the program. It offers spacious studios and labs, drafting/drawing tables, easels, model stand and ample computer equipment as well. Plus there’s a 1,200-square-foot University Art Gallery, where works of prominent artists and students are featured.

Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University was founded in 1998. ETC is a professional graduate program for interactive entertainment, which mostly focuses on a two-year, Master of Entertainment Technology (MET) degree, which was established as a joint venture between Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.

The School of Design and Informatics is the home of Abertay’s undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in games, digital arts, cybersecurity and applied computer science. Abertay was the first university to offer degrees in Computer Games Technology and Ethical Hacking, and continues to be recognised as an international leader in its fields; the school is designated the National Center for Excellence in Computer Games Education, and has pioneered integrated cross-disciplinary practice-based learning through its workplace simulation approach and the White Space environment. In 2015, it was designated by the Princeton Review as the best school in Europe to study game design.

The School undertakes research and knowledge exchange activities to ensure the development and health of its subjects and disciplines within the University as a whole. The School is also home of Dare Academy and the Securi-Tay conference. It has long-established professional links with Dundee’s thriving computer games community and international companies including Microsoft, Rockstar North, and Sony, as well as industry bodies such as BAFTA, UKIE and TIGA.

“We hope the 80 LEVEL top 10 universities site becomes the go-to guide for future game developers to help them choose the school of their dreams,” said Kirill Tokarev, co-founder and editor-in-chief of 80 LEVEL. “We put a lot of thought into the list, and we will continue to expand it and add relevant information as we update every year.”

The 80 LEVEL top-10 universities scoring is based on over 15 criteria, divided into four categories, which enabled the team to analyze the schools, identifying the best of the best. To obtain the final rating of a particular university, results for each criteria were summarized, providing an overall rating for the university. The results of the calculations were compared with the published ratings by the Princeton Review and Game Designing, with similar yet diverse results. For more information, please visit

Banks and Fintechs: Adversaries or Partners? – Knowledge@Wharton

(This article was produced in collaboration with the SWIFT Institute.)

The fast-moving world of financial technology, better known as fintech, is settling into a global pattern. Disruptive fintech startups not long ago were thought to threaten important revenue streams of even the biggest financial institutions. But they are now pursuing business models based on collaboration with banks or even being acquired by them. And banks increasingly see ways they could improve customer service by working cooperatively with the nimble entrants, which are unconstrained by layers of bureaucracy, regulation and conservative corporate cultures unused to rapid change.

But don’t expect total harmony, say experts. Some fintechs will aggressively go it alone and challenge the legacy banks in their most lucrative markets. And recent rule changes in Europe, which force banks to transfer closely guarded customer information to fintechs upon customer request, will add new momentum to the upstarts.

Still, the drive towards collaboration is well underway, as the following on-the-ground examples suggest.

  • ICICI Bank, India’s largest private bank, and Paytm, the country’s largest digital payments platform, have jointly launched a digital credit account on the Paytm app. Paytm-ICICI Bank Postpaid gives customers access to instant micro-credit for everyday expenses — from bill payments to movie tickets. Its algorithm – from ICICI – is based on a customer’s financial and digital behavior and evaluates credit-worthiness in seconds.
  • Bocom International, the investment banking arm of China’s Bank of Communications, has partnered with Hong Kong fintech firm FDT-AI to develop intelligent, personalized investment research based on bank clients’ past transactions. The hope is to offer more tailor-made investment advice.
  • ING Group has partnered with Scalable Capital, a leading online wealth manager and robo-advice firm in Europe, to offer a fully digital investment solution to ING’s retail customers starting in Germany. Customers do a paperless registration in under 15 minutes. With a minimum investment of 10,000 euros they can monitor their portfolios on both Scalable Capital and ING mobile apps and online portals.
  • Kabbage, a U.S.-based leading online lender, has partnered with large players such as Scotiabank, for streamlining online lending; MasterCard, for business loans through MasterCard’s network of acquirers; ING, to provide capital to small businesses; and Santander Bank, for loans to small and medium enterprises.

These moves by financial institutions and fintechs in India, China, Netherlands and the U.S. show just how globally the imagined natural differences between traditional financial institutions and creative, disruptive fintechs continue to shift from competition to collaboration.

“Incumbents that don’t seek to partner will die.” –Mike Sigal

The financial services sector is going through the same kind of digital transformation that media and commerce went through in the 1990s and telecom went through in the 2000s, says Mike Sigal, partner, 500 Fintech co-founder and early-stage investor; co-founder of Upside Partners; and founding executive producer of Innotribe, an initiative of the SWIFT bank messaging cooperative. History suggests that when the industry shakes out the leaders left standing will be a mix of incumbents that move aggressively to adopt new technologies, and some new entrants. Incumbents that don’t partner “will die,” he says. “Smart incumbents realize that they can benefit from the insights and agility of startups, while startups have understood that the scale, reach, stability and regulatory management of incumbents can be helpful.”

Indeed, fintechs can pose an existential threat to banks. Kartik Hosanager, Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions, sees fintechs as “definitely a big threat to banks,” especially in service areas that are capital-light and where “fintech products offer new capabilities that are hard to offer in non-tech products.” A classic example is marketplace lending. Here, fintechs take advantage of the capital-light aspect of a marketplace to offer lending services at lower costs. Further, they can leverage new data from social platforms and elsewhere to improve their analytics. “In areas like student lending, fintechs have already made sufficient inroads. Companies like Square (credit card processing) and others who use mobile devices as cheaper point-of-sale systems are another example.” But Hosanagar thinks fintechs will likely find it hard to penetrate capital-heavy services such as wholesale banking and mortgages.

Hosanagar expects “a lot of co-opetition.” Take mobile wallets. Most big banks like Chase and others have mobile wallet solutions that compete with Apple Pay and Android Pay. These companies also work together to offer a seamless service to any user independent of which device and card she uses at a retail store. Robo-advisors is another case. Incumbents like Schwab and Vanguard have robo-advisors that compete with fintechs like Betterment. At the same time, banks like Citizens Bank have partnered with fintechs to offer robo-advisor capabilities to clients.

According to the World FinTech Report 2018 produced by Capgemini and Linkedin, in collaboration with the European Financial Management Association, 75.5% of fintechs surveyed want to collaborate with traditional financial services firms. Only 18.1% want to compete on their own. The rest want to be acquired by other fintechs or traditional firms.

More than 55% of fintech executives said “gaining visibility, achieving economies of scale, earning customer trust and establishing a better distribution infrastructure” are crucial reasons for partnering with incumbents. “Such a mindset and logical fit of complementary strengths make a strong case for collaboration for today and the future,” says Sankar Krishnan, executive vice president for banking and capital markets at Capgemini.

The Trust Factor

For the upstarts, tapping into the goodwill and trust that incumbents have created is a strong draw. Hosanagar says: “Trust is extremely important for financial services and is not easy to build overnight. Institutions that have been around for decades, if not centuries, have an edge with trust.” Rob Morgan, vice president of emerging technologies at the American Bankers Association, adds: “I may be willing to get into someone’s car for a few minutes without a lot of trust. But when I give you my money, I really need to trust you. When banks and fintechs pair together, you get the best of both worlds and customers can get the new innovative services they crave from a trusted partner.”

Morgan also points out that fintechs typically focus on narrow areas and develop competitive solutions. But unlike, say Uber, which provides a full replacement for the service it has disrupted, fintechs do not replicate the entire suite of banking services. This limits their ability to disrupt the industry as a whole.

“Trust is extremely important for financial services and is not easy to build overnight.” –Kartik Hosanagar

Another huge impetus for fintech-bank collaboration is the growing threat from large technology players such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba — popularly grouped as GAFAA. Vivek Belgavi, partner and India fintech leader at PwC India, points out that they can “develop unique solutions because of their huge base of frequent customers, large data sets and technology pool.” Jean-Philippe Vergne, strategy professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, notes that in China big tech is “already reaching more fintech customers than big banks.” Suggesting that the banks must “leverage the technology developed by fintech startups to compete against big tech by using licensing agreements, acquisitions, partnerships or direct investment,” Vergne considers fintechs at present to be “more of an opportunity for big banks than a threat.”

Yet, it’s not as if the marriage between the large, veteran firms and the upstarts do not carry risks. Ravi Bapna, professor in business analytics and information systems at the University of Minnesota, “doesn’t see a natural cultural fit.” Since legacy financial institutions “haven’t really focused on reducing frictions faced by consumers and organizations,” the threat to banks “is real.” Fees charged by credit cards to merchants, he thinks, will be disrupted in the same way that brokerage fees are going to shrink in the era of exchange traded funds and innovators such as Robinhood (a zero-cost trading platform), and how the investment banking business is threatened by the direct listing of Spotify’s IPO. The newer models are made possible by automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

Bapna also points to disruptive models in places such as China and India. Ant Financial in China, as an example, has regular interactions with 450 million consumers for payments. That is the “stepping stone for every imaginable financial product” like credit, working capital loans, insurance, pensions, etc. “at a fraction of the cost of legacy institutions, which are encumbered by the pre-Internet, pre-AI-based operating models.”

The India Stack ecosystem, he notes, is another interesting model. “By designing an open, application programming interface (API) platform that others can innovate on, it has the potential to even disrupt the disruptors like Paytm,” says Bapna. He adds: For now, “the Indian government has completely waived transaction fees for person-to-person transactions. This should send shockwaves to credit card companies that charge 3% to 4% of transaction value.”

Banking on Tech

Traditionally, financial institutions have been more process-oriented. This, along with legacy systems and regulatory framework, has restricted their ability to quickly leverage new technologies and roll out new products and services which address customer pain points. Fintechs, on the other hand, are typically more customer-oriented (rather than process-oriented), asset light, have lean operating models, are free of legacy system issues and have better regulatory arbitrage. This allows them to nimbly leverage new technologies like cloud and artificial intelligence to offer a highly differentiated customer experience centered on personalization, speed, relevance, and seamless delivery.

“When banks and fintechs collaborate, innovation and speed-to-market foster a better customer experience like never before.” –Sankar Krishnan

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of India’s Paytm, says what sets fintech’s apart is the way they approach a problem and their ability to continuously evolve. Banks and fintechs, he points out, are essentially trying to solve the same problems. But unlike banks which use “age-old wisdom,” fintechs are “resetting business models by experimenting with newer opportunities.” In Sharma’s view, it is not fintech companies that pose a threat to banks: “If banks don’t adapt to the new world where consumer behavior is tilting toward technology-led banking, technology could become a threat.”

Sharma points to another major difference: Unlike banks, fintechs have access to risk capital and are not under continuous pressure to be profitable. Fintechs, therefore, can experiment while traditional banks mostly experiment with what has always worked. “By then, the product moves many notches ahead in the market. It’s a classic problem, where fintechs produce technology, and banks, that typically use outsourced IT service providers, can only be customers of technology.”

PwC’s Belgavi notes that fintechs initially focused primarily on disrupting customer-facing areas. They introduced innovations like chatbots to respond to customer queries, authenticated users in near real-time, enabled frictionless, contactless and seamless transactions and offered deeply customized financial products. Financial inclusion of unserved and underserved segments by assessing unconventional data sources and behavioral characteristics, such as willingness to pay, has also been a focus.

Now, fintechs are also developing solutions for non-customer facing areas. For example, they are trying to combine capabilities of AI and robotics to develop new-age solutions for fast processing. Regtech — assisting firms in next generation know-your-customer (KYC), compliance and regulatory reporting — is also gaining traction. “Fintechs are trying to disrupt the entire financial value chain through innovative offerings,” says Belgavi. “New-age banks such as Openbank, Monese, Monzo and Fidor — with new- age models and differentiating solutions — are seriously challenging the business of traditional banks.”

According to Capgemini’s Krishnan, fintechs can take market share from banks “very quickly and often times without any signals to the big banks that they are losing market share.” He cites examples like PayPal, TransferWise, SoFi, Better Mortgage, Stripe, Square and Ant Financials. Paypal (digital payments firm) has over $450 billon of annual payments. Square, founded in 2009, crossed $2.2 billion of revenue in 2017. Ant Financial has a valuation of over $100 billion — about the same as Goldman Sachs.

Trying to Keep Pace

Banks are trying to stay relevant in this fast-changing landscape through different initiatives. For instance, they are setting up their own centers of excellence and developing in-house solutions, introducing chatbots and voicebots, offering online banking and mobile banking, and launching their own cloud-based digital offerings.

There are also instances where banks have tried to digitize the existing broken, manual processes rather than reimagining them. A few have tried to develop new technology stacks over the existing technology ecosystem. But such an approach doesn’t help in fundamentally transforming customer experience. To remain relevant, banks need to think beyond the obvious and reimagine their offerings with customers at the center, says Belgavi.

This is where collaboration with fintechs, which are highly customer-centric, is expected to bring gains. “When banks and fintechs collaborate, innovation and speed-to-market foster a better customer experience like never before. Banks don’t have to reinvent the wheel as they are able to take successful fintech models and apply them to their customers and their environment,” adds Krishnan.

Will regulations prove to be a challenge? ABA’s Morgan points out that the regulatory framework was written in an analog era and digital technologies are challenging some of the assumptions that those regulations were written under. In the U.S. for example, there are a number of states where taking a picture of a driving license is not legal. “It’s hard to do things like opening a bank account on a mobile phone when you can’t take a picture of the driving license,” he says. But regulators are trying to adapt.

Changes are already taking place. Europe has recently introduced two ground breaking regulations that could redefine consumer finance – the Open Banking Initiative and the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2). These make it mandatory for banks to share their customer data with third parties provided the customers give their consent.

“Partnerships should not be just for branding, but must significantly transform the nature of offerings.” –Vivek Belgavi

In a Knowledge@Wharton article discussing the impact of these regulations, Pinar Ozcan, professor of strategy at the University of Warwick in England, says banks could benefit from this. Companies that have the largest customer base are in the best position to turn their businesses around and make it a platform. Ozcan further notes that if banks were able to act fast and get these fintechs on board to provide a platform or build a platform to offer better services to the customers, they “wouldn’t need to go anywhere else.”

The Right Moves

Some banks have been quick to see it. Spain’s BBVA made eight of its APIs commercially available through the BBVA API Market in May 2017. This allows startups and developers to build new products and services by accessing and integrating the banking data of BBVA’s customers – with their permission – into their applications. Derek White, global head of customer solutions at BBVA, said in a statement that “by opening commercially our data and services, BBVA is turning ‘open banking’ – a model that is going to speed up the transformation of the financial industry – into a reality. Not only are we adapting to EU standard PSD2, which aims to boost competition in the industry, but are actually aiming to become the best platform on which to build new digital experiences. This is a customer-led business opportunity.”

At present, popular engagement models include innovation labs where cutting-edge products are built within the bank, accelerator programs and venture investments. Practically all large banks have embarked on these.

Take India’s Kotak Mahindra Bank. It started its fintech partnership program 18 months ago to look at fintech solutions from top to bottom. The Kotak team identifies the bank’s business problems and then looks out for fintechs that can solve them. It also looks at available solutions from fintechs to see if they could work for the bank. Notes Deepak Sharma, the bank’s chief digital officer: Partnering with fintechs allows multiple tests simultaneously. The bank learns fast “whether we should scale a particular offering or pivot to something else.”

Sharma’s team has three engagement models with fintechs. One, it takes their ready solutions and deploys them internally. Under this model, the bank has partnered with fintechs like AI firm (for conversational banking), CreditVidya (lending solutions) and RupeePower (real time credit decision). Second, it partners with fintechs that are in the customer-facing businesses like Payso and Ftcash (payment and lending options to small businesses and neighborhood stores) and powers them with its APIs to help acquire more customers. And lastly, it recently launched a payments co-creation program under which it has partnered with six fintechs in the payments space. These include Automaxis (solutions for goods and services tax filings), DairyPlus (payment digitalization for dairy distribution businesses) and Nukkad Shops Technology (retail business solutions for mom and pop stores).

These fintechs were selected from 133 applicants. They get to work with Kotak’s innovation lab in Bangalore, receive mentorship and the opportunity for a pilot launch in a live environment. Over the past 18 months Kotak Mahindra Bank has partnered with over 55 fintechs through these different models of engagement. “The nature of our partnership with a fintech depends on their core strengths and which part of the value chain of financial services they are impacting,” says Sharma.

Many financial institutions including Citibank, Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Nomura have accelerator programs for fintechs, while UBS, Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale, BNP Paribas and HSBC have invested into fintech firms offering solutions across blockchain, data analytics, personal finance, wealth management, lending, payments, and settlement and regulatory technology.

According to the World Fintech Report, the fintechs’ most preferred partnership is in white-labeling their solutions. Here, the financial services firm buys a ready solution from a fintech and implements it under its own brand. For instance, the partnership between JPMorgan Chase and online lending company OnDeck Capital combines the lending experience of JPMorgan and On Deck Capital’s technology platform to accelerate loan processing time. For the customer, the loans are provided through JPMorgan Chase.

The next preferred collaboration model is integrated in-house solutions. Here, the products and solutions are hosted in-house — typically for larger firms — or as a software-as-a-service for smaller firms. For example, ABN Amro has collaborated with Swedish fintech startup Tink to build an application that gives customers greater control over their finances. The bank launched its pilot version to 10,000 clients and solicited feedback to refine the app for the final roll-out. Currently, more than 150,000 clients use the application Grip, which is linked to ABN Amro’s mobile banking application.

Those are the most preferred models of collaboration by fintechs, says Capgemini’s Krishnan. But over time, he expects a shift to full outsourcing and fintechs leveraging APIs, among others. To gauge the success of a collaboration, he says, it is important to ask the following questions: Does it solve a specific problem? Does it improve the cost or risk dynamics for both the partners? Does it improve the culture and foster new thinking and approaches? Did the collaboration achieve superior results vs. build from a go-to-market perspective? “Successful collaborations always achieve better results,” Krishnan adds.

Vergne says banks need to learn to become nimble, learn how to bridge siloes and increase their speed-to-market. Startups must learn to collaborate within highly bureaucratized structures and navigate complex hierarchies.

ABA’s Morgan believes that closing that culture gap is the big challenge. The culture profile of startups is to fail fast. Success after a 1,000 failures is still a success. In banks, the culture is built around managing risks. “Fintechs must understand the regulatory challenges and the need to maintain customer trust, while banks need to adapt to the innovative and iterative culture.”

For Belgavi, the key to a successful partnership is to find a middle ground that transcends differences across various aspects such as culture, project lifecycle and methodology, employee age and background, hierarchical levels and compliance requirements as they seek to develop a “sustainable and mutually beneficial” partnership. Most importantly, he says, “Partnerships should not be just for branding, but must significantly transform the nature of offerings.”

American Well to Acquire Avizia – Healthcare Informatics

For primary care clinics, especially those in rural areas, establishing solid relationships with organizations that provide specialty telehealth services can vastly improve the number of services they can offer their patients. But building and maintaining those relationships so that they make sense financially and in terms of quality and patient satisfaction takes a lot of work.

I hadn’t realized how complex that relationship-building could be until yesterday, when I got a chance to hear an online presentation by the California Telehealth Resource Center (CTRC) detailing 20 questions clinics should ask specialty telehealth providers when vetting different offerings. The speaker was Kathy Chorba, CTRC’s executive director, who has 20 years of telehealth program development experience, beginning with establishing and growing the UC Davis Telemedicine program, incorporating 80 sites and 35 specialties, and directing the Telemedicine Learning Center.

Chorba began by noting that the work of assessing these partnerships should begin only after you have done a needs assessment, identified the kinds of specialties you want to engage (dermatology, psychiatry, etc.), and the volume you expect to generate. You should also have established physician buy-in and identified your telehealth team. Once you have done these things, then you are ready to start establishing partner relationships, she said.

I won’t go through all the questions Chorba suggested clinics ask of specialty provider groups, but just the following sampling of them might help those of us who are not in the telehealth trenches everyday better understand some of the logistical issues involved.

• What specialties are available through this provider group? Chorba noted that some specialty provider groups offer one specialty only (such as behavioral health) while others offer a wide variety of specialties. She added that some clinics prefer the “one-stop shop” for all their specialty needs, because it simplifies the contracting, credentialing, referral process and workflow, while other clinics prefer to shop around and find the best price for each specialty.

• Does the provider group contract with your payer(s), bill you by the hour or block of time or patient seen? Specialty provider groups use different payment mechanisms, and you have to find one that is mutually beneficial. Chorba added that before you negotiate, you should know how many referrals you think you will have for each specialty and how soon you will be able start. “This will help determine the financial model that fits your program,” she said. The speciality provider will know if they have capacity.”

• What are the rates for live video and store and forward and are they the same for adult and pediatric? Rates will vary depending on the specialty services needed, as well as volume and modality. Rates for store-and-forward specialties such as dermatology will typically be lower than live video specialties, and new patient appointments may be more expensive than follow-up appointments, Chorba said. Also, rates may vary according to the volume of patient referrals you anticipate sending to the specialty group. Each specialty also tends to have a different timeframe for visits. Dermatology visits may take 20 minutes, while psychiatric visits take an hour. “One rule of thumb is 40 minutes for new visits and 20 minutes for followup visits,” she said. Clinics have to structure their appointment strategy to afford the specialists’ time. “When does a $250-per-hour specialist cost less than a $200-per-hour specialist? When the $250 specialist can fit more patient visits into that hour,” she said.

CTRC offers clinics a sustainability worksheet to help them understand all their costs involved in purchasing blocks of time from telehealth specialists. Initially they may expect to lose some money because all the patients are new and the visits are longer, but as you move into the growth phase, and the specialists are seeing more follow-up patients, you can fit more patients into an 8-hour day. “The bottom line is you are not losing money anymore,” Chorba said. About seven months into the program, you should hit the maintenance phase, where you are keeping your patient no-show rate down and overall costs down.

• Does the specialty provider group have referral guidelines for each specialty? Besides specifying the time required for new and follow-up patients, these guidelines also state what information or tests are needed prior to the consult (labs, chart notes, etc.). Chorba added that the tests required could be unavailable or too expensive for your patients or not covered by their health plan. “Just knowing the referral guidelines and tests rquired prior to a consult,” she said, “may help you decide that is a provider you don’t want to work with.”

• What level of technical support will the specialty provider group provide? While most primary-care clinic sites have some technical support staff available, few clinics have staff that are able to troubleshoot telemedicine video and peripheral equipment and/or broadband connectivity issues. Some specialty provider groups provide a basic level of technical support or troubleshooting assistance in order to make sure services are provided as scheduled. Chorba said clinics should make clear what type of support it can provide.

This is just a subset of all the questions Chorba raised with webinar attendees. It helps explain why Federally Qualified Health Centers and other small clinics need consulting help to get their telehealth programs up and running. In closing she mentioned that the CTRC is now working on its next set of guidance on how to keep that relationship with specialty providers healthy once you have chosen a group to work with. With so much emphasis on the potential for telehealth these days, it is important for all of us to remember that the transition to telehealth and the hand-offs between providers involves a lot of complexity!

Computer-based tests are another challenge for low-income students, teachers say – The Washington Post

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What is health informatics? – Definition from – TechTarget

Public health informatics

Public health informatics is the application of computer science, information and technology to the administration of public health, including disease surveillance, prevention, preparedness and health education, according to the American Medical Informatics Association.

A health informatician explains

the value of healthcare informatics.

When used in public health, informatics guides government and nonprofit health administrators in making data-driven decisions about public health policies and programs, such as clinical data registries and chronic disease prevention.

Inside Edward Jones’ Take on Technology – ThinkAdvisor

Vinny Ferrari of Edward Jones

Broker-dealers and RIAs are grappling with how to best develop and invest in technology to aid their advisors and clients. Edward Jones Principal Vinny Ferrari, whose technology expertise includes 22 years working on Wall Street, knows these challenges well.

He recently discussed how Edward Jones — which includes about 15,950 advisors — relies on advisor teams to provide critical feedback on what would make their work processes easier. This includes being able to work more on mobile devices and using social media to maintain regular contact with clients.

What is your firm’s view on client expectations regarding technology (online, mobile, etc.) for the next, say, year or two? And what is it doing to meet those client expectations?

Clients’ expectations of how they use technology to connect with their branch teams (the financial advisor and branch office administrators) continue to increase. Our competitive advantage has always been the trusted relationships between our branch teams and their clients, and technology solutions must continue to evolve to ensure technology is a true extension of that relationship.

To exceed clients’ changing needs, we are investing in systems and tools that deepen that relationship, while providing convenience and greater access to information. Clients also expect a consistent experience across multiple channels.

We’ve always excelled at the in-person experience, but their web, mobile and social experiences matter too and technology is integral to matching that in-person experience with what those other channels can provide.

What does your firm believe advisors most want for both their office and mobile technology over the next year or two? How is it trying to meet those advisor expectations?

Our financial advisors want the freedom and flexibility to serve clients from anywhere. While the branch office is often convenient for clients, other times they may want to meet at a coffee shop or via web conference.

Our goal is to support the relationship wherever and whenever it’s convenient for the client with the industry’s best tools. While our financial advisors are already doing this, we’re making it even easier to access and use our entire suite of tools remotely — from a phone, tablet or laptop — so they can share meaningful information with clients while away from the office.

What new technologies, ­platforms, applications or other innovations has your firm introduced in the past 6–12 months? And why did it make these innovations?

We’ve been intensely focused on enhancing our tools to deliver a more consistent and deep experience for clients, particularly in light of evolving regulatory requirements. It’s always been imperative for financial advisors to understand the client’s full financial picture and to make recommendations that align to their interest first; and we keep making it easier to do just that. While every client’s preferences — from appointment type to contact method — can be different, our process for engaging deeply with the client during an appointment is consistent and our tools support that process more than ever before.

Do you all have a tech-focused committee of advisors, and what does it do? Likewise, how does your firm regularly solicit and integrate advisor feedback on technology?

Yes, we have two main groups: our Regional Technology Advisor (RTA) group of more than 250 branch teams and our Client Solutions Leader (CSL) group of more than 250 branch teams serve as our sounding board when we introduce technology improvements as well as serving as advocates these changes to the rest of the field.

We engage regularly with our CSLs and RTAs and solicit feedback via online surveys. On a monthly basis, we meet with many of these branch teams via web conferences in which we share some of our planned enhancements and get their feedback to shape our strategy. They have the opportunity to share their “pain points” so we can understand how technology may be able to help solve problems, too.

We’ve also stepped up our user experience game and we’re asking for input earlier in the development process, which is allowing for better designs and processes for our branch teams and clients.

Is there a specific expectation for how active advisors should be on social media? If so, why is that expectation in place, and how are advisors doing in terms of meeting that ­expectation?

Our most successful, social media-enabled financial advisors are finding ways to integrate social/digital touch points into their day-to-day contact strategy and practice management — and we’re certainly sharing best practices for social from our leading financial advisors with the rest of the field.

By finding logical, strategic places in their day to engage in certain social media activities, it can become automatic; and that’s really the ultimate goal. The best advisors won’t spend more than five to 10 minutes at a single time engaged in social media; however, they may end up at the end of the day with four of those brief sessions complementing their other relationship-deepening strategies.

What is the overall philosophy with regards to technology in the long term for your firm?

Edward Jones delivers a high-touch, high-tech experience; our technology is designed to support the relationship between a client and a branch team and our consistently top-ranked rating in JD Power helps to validate how our branch teams view our technology.

Our philosophy is really built around that relationship and it’s at the center of everything we design. The role of technology has expanded significantly though — especially in the last several years.

Gone are the days where technology was simply a way to make the firm’s operations more efficient. Now, we must continue to invest in keeping our technology nimble given the importance of technology in the client experience.

What is your firm thinking about in terms of robo-advisors, automation, artificial intelligence and the like for the next five years or so?

There’s no question that each of these technologies is going to have a significant, and different, impact on the industry. For example, we’ve seen some impressive innovation from robo-advisors in recent years, most notably in digital workflow associated with client acquisition and onboarding. For us, our goal is to think deeply about the application of these technologies in the context of our strategy — serving serious, individual long-term investors through face-to-face relationships with financial advisors. Where we see opportunities to enhance those relationships with these technologies, we’ll definitely be pushing forward, however, that will likely look different than many of our competitors.

What new developments is your firm working on in terms of technology and portfolio management/wealth management that you can discuss?

We have some of the most robust, well-integrated tools in the industry. These tools help our financial advisors create portfolios for new and existing clients, identify which client portfolios are outside of our analysts’ guidance and automatically or manually rebalance portfolios. Interestingly, while simple portfolio tools once provided firms a competitive advantage, portfolio construction has become quite commoditized — leaving strong, trusted relationships between clients and branch teams as a key competitive advantage.

We are improving our portfolio tools, adding data analytics, and improving the integration of these tools so we can ensure that the relationship between clients and branch teams continues to be the key competitive advantage of our firm.

Are there any more thoughts on advisors, clients and technology strategy at your firm that you would like to share?

Supporting the relationship between clients and their Edward Jones advisor shapes nearly every aspect of our ­business — and technology is no exception.

We’re committed to improving the tools that our clients and branch teams use each day. In our model, our financial advisors provide trusted advice through a high-touch and very high-tech platform and our clients find this valuable.

Greater Bay Area could be Hong Kong’s ticket to tech progress – South China Morning Post

Ever since he took over as Hong Kong’s financial secretary in January 2017, Paul Chan Mo-po has allocated record amounts to boost Hong Kong’s innovation and technological development. In his budget for 2018-19, Chan set aside an additional HK$50 billion (US$6.4 billion), in addition to the HK$10 billion he had reserved last year.

Of the resources allocated, HK$20 billion will be spent on developing the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau loop; HK$10 billion for research in health care, artificial intelligence and robotics; HK$10 billion for research under the Innovation and Technology Fund; and HK$10 billion for enhancing research and incubation at the Science Park.

Watch: Lok Ma Chau Loop – an overview

Hong Kong falls to lowest ever ranking in innovation

The amounts represent a quantum leap in the resources Hong Kong devotes to technological development, even though Hong Kong still lags significantly behind Guangdong province and neighbour Shenzhen in the percentage of gross domestic product expended on research and development.

The questions are … what is truly achievable within our city, and what benefits technological development can truly bring

The generous support, albeit belatedly, is part of the national drive to boost “high quality”, tech-based growth across the country. The questions are not whether such efforts are too little, too late, but what is truly achievable within our city, and what benefits technological development can truly bring to the people of Hong Kong, within or outside our city.

In pushing Hong Kong’s tech development, we must be clear-headed about our weaknesses and strengths. First, Hong Kong cannot possibly be a base for research in core technologies, such as the China Spallation Neutron Source in Dongguan, which legislators visited as part of their Greater Bay Area tour last weekend. The facility undertakes research in fundamental physics, which has a wide range of applications in structural biology, biotechnology, chemical and engineering materials, just to name a few.

Hong Kong, being part of Guangdong geographically, is located in a relatively seismically stable area for constructing such a massive underground, accelerator-based facility. However, not only would it be much more expensive to build such a facility in Hong Kong, the long time it would take to complete public consultation and secure the funding would simply make such a project in Hong Kong not viable.

Will innovation scheme enrich investors rather than drive tech?

Hong Kong firms must innovate to lead in Greater Bay Area

Before the reunification, Hong Kong still had an industrial base, three Motorola semiconductor design and packaging plants, and other semiconductor-related industrial operations. The government then had worked hard to woo semiconductor giants to establish silicon foundries in Hong Kong, so that Hong Kong could capture core technologies in chip-making. Again, the prohibitive cost, lack of government subsidy, the high-risk environment for the chip-making business, and Hong Kong’s small market, combined to render such efforts futile.

Granted, the quest for core and enabling technologies needs not be the holy grail of business cities like Hong Kong, which, despite the pile of cash it sits on, is severely limited by the grave shortage of land and lack of interest in basic science among the city’s brightest and best. Yet even among business cities, Hong Kong lags woefully behind its competitors in the use of new information technology.

For example, Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department started consultation in April 2016 on the launch of a “single trade window” – an information technology platform for the one-stop lodging of trade and customs documents. It is unclear how long it took the department to develop the electronic platform, but the system will not get to Phase 3, which permits lodging of documents by mobile technology, until 2023. The timeline for innovation compares poorly with mainland cities, which have gone cashless and paperless in huge numbers of government and business applications.

Technology will transform Hong Kong’s traditional property market

Why China and the West aren’t that far apart, in business at least

Hong Kong used to be held up as a skilful user of technologies, despite its inability to innovate. But now it looks like entrenched bureaucratic red tape, systemic resistance to change, and lengthy and politicised consultation and funding processes have held back Hong Kong in the use of information technologies.

Hong Kong’s universities do not lack world-class professors. But engineering departments have regularly complained about the lack of new undergraduate students with the necessary training in calculus and linear algebra, a must for studies in advanced mathematics and engineering.

Big data and artificial intelligence are now being touted as bright spots for Hong Kong’s tech development. Again, Hong Kong, a city of 7 million, is hampered by the limited data at its disposal, and bureaucratic hurdles which have made open data even within government well nigh a mission impossible. A commonly cited example for ridicule is the lack of a common data pool even between the Hospital Authority and the Health Department.

Hong Kong’s plan to become a ‘smart city’ needs some fresh thinking

Legislators on the recent visit found, to their pleasant surprise, that some of Hong Kong’s top engineering professors have left for the Greater Bay Area to hatch start-ups in robotics. WeBank, China’s first internet bank, proudly paraded top management of Hong Kong origin or educated in Hong Kong’s universities.

There is hope for Hong Kong’s tech future, only on condition that cross-boundary collaboration is made possible by the Greater Bay Area development. Talent flocks to where opportunities abound, and the promised dismantling of barriers to the flow of talent, funds and data within the Greater Bay Area provides the only sure-fire way out.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is a lawmaker and chairwoman of the New People’s Party

Patients pave the way for interoperability –

As interoperability is stymied by providers who don’t want to share their patients’ data because they fear competition and vendors who are afraid of the same thing and have closed off their systems, patients are stepping in.

“The requirement to exchange information is not consistent with our idea of market competition,” Blumenthal said. “We believe that, on the one hand, healthcare should be like every other market, and people should be ferociously competing. On the other hand, we believe people should be acting like professionals and putting their patients’ interests above their own.”

Simply put, he said, these models can’t co-exist.

Now that there are massive amounts of healthcare data, though, demand for access to it is increasing—and some of that demand is coming from patients themselves. “Patients have a right to an electronic version of their data,” Blumenthal said. “Providers can just give the data to the patient,” he said. “This is a backdoor way of short-circuiting the whole question of whether providers will exchange data.”

Notably, Apple has taken this backdoor approach with its Health app. Not only are the data in the app technically interoperable, thanks to FHIR, they’re also potentially longitudinal. That means providers can use the information to get a better picture of the patient’s complete healthcare timeline—something that’s harder to do in a single, limited EHR system.

Google (now Alphabet) tried something similar in 2008 with Google Health, a personal health record that was supposed to allow people to aggregate all their health records in one place. But data exchange troubles and a lack of demand thwarted the project. Similarly, Microsoft Corp. has tried to give consumers a personal health record with its HealthVault, launched in 2007. The service has been slow to take off, though.

Now, with Apple’s entrance into health records, some expect Samsung to follow suit, encouraging the same kind of use for Android phone customers.

Letting Apple and patients do the legwork removes a lot of the burden of data exchange, Erskine said. When patients pull their own data, they necessarily are matched to the correct records, and they serve as the HIPAA authority. “If patients can do all that by themselves, all that overhead that’s currently an impediment to the flow of clinical data goes away.”

Traditional EHR vendors are working with Apple to make this possible. Those partnerships may expand. “If Apple had partnerships with institutions and Epic so that any Epic institution could work easily with Apple, you could imagine a new route to exchange for Epic clients,” Blumenthal said. That route would be the patient.

The federal government, too, has its eye on the patient as a means of data exchange. With the new proposed rule, regulators are building on MyHealthEData, an initiative announced by CMS Administrator Seema Verma in March to give patients more control over their own health information by putting it on any device.

“It’s almost as though we’ve come full circle to the idea of the smart card,” said John Kelly, principal business adviser for software firm Edifecs, referring to the idea of a physical card that would hold a patient’s medical history and let providers update that information.

“When the patient becomes the agent of interoperability, a lot of the other stuff becomes moot,” Kelly said. “Now you’ve completely bypassed all the problems with the EHRs talking to one another. It changes the game completely.”

If all goes according to plan, or at least close to it, these initiatives could help advance value-based care models, Kelly said. “If payers and providers and employer groups start sharing the information that would create value-based reimbursement models, that would drive real cost savings,” he said.

These initiatives would also drive patient engagement. “You have this additional benefit that the patient is no longer a spectator of their record—they become the owner of that record,” Erskine said.

The EHR market might ultimately look different, too. “If you democratize the information and the flow of it, then suddenly it’s hard for a limited number of oligarchs to control the market,” Kelly said.

Before that can happen, there are still technical and logistical kinks to be worked out. How, for instance, will patients get their information back into the EHR software on which health systems so heavily depend?

“The industry needs to integrate that back into a longitudinal care plan,” Gresham said.

Meanwhile, the industry can’t forget provider-to-provider interoperability. “It’s not a single solution that will solve it all,” Gresham said. “You can’t discount the value of having care providers being able to exchange data with other providers.”

Some are skeptical that patient-directed interoperability will be a big deal in the first place, particularly some of those working in the EHR industry. “I don’t think this push is going to make a big difference,” said Dr. Charles Jaffe, CEO of standards organization Health Level 7, which oversees FHIR. “It will matter a great deal to a very small group of people.”

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