The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

PKF Malta unveils the concept of the Bit-pod

George M Mangion Tuesday, 23 June 2020, 10:46 Last update: about 20 days ago

An important question is how to protect privacy as AI spreads. The internet has already made it possible to track people's digital behaviour in minute detail.  Many fear that AI will offer even better tools for businesses to monitor consumers and employees, both online and in the physical world.  The McKinsey Global Institute reckons that by 2030 up to 375m people, or 14% of the global workforce, could have their jobs automated away.  Bosses will need to decide whether they are prepared to offer and pay for retraining, and whether they will give time off for it.  Many companies say they are all for workers developing new skills, but not at the employer's expense.

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One may question: how can Malta gain from the wave of popularity that is gripping the ubiquitous sector of AI and robotics?  The answer is found in the impending age of smarter robotics - these will certainly have a profound impact on traditional manufacturing; for instance, our heath sector will soon make use of robotics to allocate medicines to patients and assist in useful operations taking place in the operating theatre.  A.I thrives best by combining large amounts of data sets with fast, iterative processing and intelligent algorithms. This allows the AI software to learn automatically from patterns or features in that vast data sets. It is trendy to read latest AI topics in the mainstream news.  It is no exaggeration that, AI has become a catch-all media term that refers to any computer program that automatically does something.  Many people make reference to AI without actually knowing what it really means.  There is often a public debate on whether it is an evil or a panacea for humanity.  

Put simply one may explain, that in Malta this technology will in the near future spearhead novelties in the manufacturing sectors and create interesting scenarios in areas of productivity, safety, service, transportation, land registration and police records. With hindsight, we note how Malta started two years ago started to toy with the novelty of the Blockchain technology-one that gave birth and support to virtual currencies. It passed a number of laws to regulate the blockchain and its derivative services.

It is all a matter of trust while the government spared no expense to sponsor mega conferences two years ago.  How can we square the circle?  Mindful of the legal and technical minefields that lay ahead the government formed a committee of experts to help design and draft parameters leading to a safe framework and good governance in the field of Artificial Intelligence.  It is an open secret, that our government is keen to be seen helping innovation and would like to see Malta becoming a jurisdiction that attracts talent from all over the world. This a noble thought, but in truth one cannot compete on cutting edge research - by simply reciting Hail Marys.  Applied research costs millions. Artificial intelligence and robotics are two "overnight successes" that have been decades in the making, and their intersection will soon change a multitude of industries.  The evolution of smarter AI and more versatile robotics has helped both technologies to push past repetitive tasks to take on adaptive and more intelligent applications.

In the coming years, the result will be nothing short of revolutionary paradigm shifts. The impending age of smarter robotics will certainly have a profound impact on traditional manufacturing; for instance, the heath sector in Malta will soon make use of robotics to allocate medicines to patients and assist in useful operations taking place in the operating theatre. This initiative, will spearhead other uses in the manufacturing sectors and create interesting scenarios in areas of productivity, safety, service, transportation, land registration and police records.

More will be revealed when driver-less cars will become fully functional and slowly enter into the mainstream. Autonomously driven cars and drones are both forms of advanced robotics, and they will pave the way for more specialized services that will speed productivity. They will impact every area of our lives. As was the case of the internet revolution, some of the novelties will happen in a gradual, evolutionary way; but some will leapfrog in a sudden, revolutionary manner.  Back to virtual currencies and the advent of blockchain, we can predict that once a vaccine becomes mainstream as a panacea for Covid infections then if we play our cards well (and MoneyVal concluding report is favourable) - Fintech will be attracted to Malta.  

One hopes that no effort is spared by the authorities to attract banks that are friendly to virtual currencies, since at present, banks in Malta do not support Bitcoin although last year the Hon Silvio Schembri assured all and sundry that efforts are in the pipeline to attract newcomers. So far, more than two dozen VFN agents have been appointed, so one hopes that banks will soon start rolling out the red carpet.  It is good to note, that PKF Malta has committed itself to making an investment towards embracing Blockchain in Malta. The investment will be made in developing BIT-POD, which will function as a quasi-lab, to comprise a live project dedicated to fuelling research and development with a special accent on the emerging fusion between technology and the financial world.  

Commenting about DLT and PKF's commitment to invest in this technology, the writer is of the opinion that "Distributed ledger technology and virtual financial assets will play an important role in the V.R. experiment. The BIT-POD experiment, will include a technical publication showing a compilation of the findings, observations, conclusions and results.  In addition to the BIT-POD facility, complementary BIT-BLOCK sessions will showcase a series of working sessions in a casual format, once again aimed at provoking thought, ideas and novel discussion with local as well as international patronage.  

In conclusion, PKF commends the good work and foresight being manifested by the Government as it encourages the private sector, to follow suit in this remarkable journey that promises to leave an indelible mark on our economy.  As a nation, regrettably we rank last in the list of EU countries where spend on innovation is concerned. Perhaps now with a €750 billion post-Covid 19 rescue package (currently being discussed in Brussels) one hopes that the purse strings will open.  Malta qualifies for an allocation of one billion euro and EU wants this fund to target green ventures, agriculture and environment objectives.  

 

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George Mangion is a senior partner of an audit and consultancy firm, and has over twenty-five years' experience in accounting, taxation, financial and consultancy services. His efforts have seen PKF instrumental in establishing many companies in Malta and placed PKF in the forefront as a professional financial service provider on the Island.

 

George can be contacted at [email protected] or on +356 21493041


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