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What’s it going to take to get cryptocurrency widely accepted?

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The metaverse doesn’t quite exist yet, but it’s just the dusk before the dawn. And when it does finally burst into life, commerce and transactions are going to be central to so much of the activity within it. Industry experts dove into the topic today during the “Transacting in the Metaverse” panel at the GamesBeat “Into the Metaverse” Summit.

Dean Takahashi, lead writer of GamesBeat, hosted Chris Smith, founder of BIG Esports, Josh Marcus, COO at Rumble Gaming, and Evan Heby, senior marketing manager of Tipalti in a wide-ranging conversation about tokens, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and other transactions in today’s virtual spaces and tomorrow’s metaverse. There’s a long road to go before everyone feels that these forms of currency are safe and secure, and they become universal. How do we get there?

“What we’re seeing is a move, first and foremost, from some of the traditional methods of payment you might see, checks and things like that, to digital versions of that, whether it’s an echeck or wire or ACH,” Heby said. “But we also predict that we’ll see even more movement as the metaverse develops, and as people build more of that trust with the cryptocurrencies, and feel that there’s a lot of value behind things like NFTs. People will start to be more willing to get paid in those forms.”

Cryptocurrency will become far more trusted and far more universal when it’s the answer to a problem that needs to be solved, Smith said — and that’s part of why many gamers reject the idea of NFTs. There’s a tremendous amount of potential for things like smart contracts in a broad array of industries, from gaming and insurances, to payment platforms and processors, and contracts with talent.

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“Blockchain isn’t going to solve everything all the time, at least not right now,” he said. “We need to have a way that it’s going to benefit [players], because otherwise we get the bad PR that we’ve seen with gamers. Triple-A gaming studios try to shove NFTs in there because it’s the cool word, the cool thing to say.”

Heby predicted that the first major move in transactions that we’ll see in metaverses is advertising companies making land grabs, very similar to what Nike did recently within Roblox. It’s a familiar narrative of development and progress in the real world, where real estate gets bought up, and then the infrastructure gets built on that.

“We’ll start seeing cutting-edge companies invest real marketing dollars — in traditional currencies, not necessarily crypto — to benefit the long-term health and wellness of their businesses,” he said. “In terms of types of transactions today, it’s still heavily based in fiat currencies like we’re talking about. But that has an opportunity to change toward crypto, toward NFTs, toward tokenization very quickly.”

Companies may also start to do pop-up shops and sell clothes or merchandise, or companies like FaZe Clan might take the opportunity to make a land grab, he said.

Trust, shared belief, and cryptocurrency

The key to helping people understand this space is the concept of digital ownership and digital assets generally, Marcus said. A skeptic might see an artistic NFT, a poorly-drawn ape, and wonder why anyone would put a six-figure value on ownership of something they could screenshoot.

“But when you unpack it, it’s not about the ape, it’s about the underlying technology that allows anyone with that technological know-how to confirm that I own the NFT to the exclusion of all others,” he said.

Ownership in the real world can be considered a bundle of rights — when you buy land, you have the right to build a house on it, the right to grow vegetables on it, the right to sell it. If you can prove that you own the rights to this ape, you can also prove that you own the rights to other digital assets. You can own one of Stella Artois’ digital horses and race it against other digital horses, own land in a digital world and develop it, and charge others for the right to enter a digital world.

“It’s about a shift in perception of property, the ownership of an asset not being limited only to the physical world, but expanding that to the digital world,” he said. “It’s going to take time, for sure, but as we start to see more utility in these digital assets, we’ll start to see greater acceptance and understanding of it generally.”

Transaction nirvana

Predictions about cryptocurrency and transactions in the metaverse can be made with varying amounts of gravitas, but no one really knows where it will end up.

“The onus is not on the consumer in adopting cryptocurrency as a legitimate asset, it’s on the technological partners and on the businesses that are creating these projects,” Marcus says.

And that probably means offering a frictionless value proposition for the consumer, where they gain benefits without having to dive into the nitty-gritty of how crypto actually works. In the NFT space, the virtual basketball trading cards product, NBA Top Shot, is a great example. You can withdraw and deposit cash in USD fairly easily to buy and sell, with few hoops to jump through.

“But if I compare that to an NFT project on the Ethereum network like Bored Ape Yacht Club, I have to open a digital wallet, deposit my fiat currency into that, exchange it for a digital currency, pay the gas and transaction fees, and eventually convert everything back and go withdraw the money at the ATM,” he said. “The onus really isn’t on us as consumers to figure out how to make this work. But I can’t wait to see where the technology goes to make it easier.”

It’s inevitable that we’ll move in this direction, Heby said.

“Compare the U.S. dollar, how long it’s been around, to Bitcoin,” he said. “We have at least a hundred-plus years on it with the U.S. dollar. That’s the marketing problem. People like things that have history behind them. As we get more and more history, there are going to be some changes, and it’ll be something that becomes more widely accepted. For now, there are still transactions going on in the metaverse. There will continue to be transactions going on.”

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These are the 12 big bets of future disruptive technologies

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The 12 big bets on future technologies as per Nasscom report

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) have identified 12 big bet technologies that can potentially disrupt markets in the next 3-5 years.

A report titled “Sandboxing into the Future: Decoding Technology’s Biggest Bets”, has identified these technologies of the future: autonomous analytics, Artificial Reality and Virtual Reality, autonomous driving, computer vision, deep learning, distributed ledger, edge computing, sensortech, smart robots, spacetech, sustainability tech, and 5G/6G.

AR VR concept image

The report noted that these 12 technologies will unravel in diverse ways, giving way to regional and vertical-specific big bets. While buyers in North America and Europe are betting on technologies such as autonomous analytics, APAC is likely to focus more on 5G/6G technologies, sensortech and smart robotics. Overall, technology buyers anticipate that investments in emerging technologies will account for 70%- 80% of tech spending by 2030.

“Going forward, it will be interesting to see how businesses will put their bets on emerging technologies and how they would be taking ahead the tech revolution for the larger good of the society,” said NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh.

Cognizant acquires Utegration

Leading technology services company Cognizant has said it bought Houston-based Utegration LLC, a full-service consulting and solutions provider specializing in SAP  technology and SAP-certified products for the energy and utilities sectors.

Cognizant will gain approximately 350 employees in North America and India upon the close of this acquisition.

“We believe Utegration’s rich industry expertise and differentiated portfolio of energy and utilities-focused products and accelerators is a perfect complement to our SAP practice,” said Rob Vatter, Executive Vice President of Cognizant’s Enterprise Platform Services.

Utegration serves over 50 North America-based clients in the energy and utilities sector with solutions across four domains aligned to market needs: customer experience, billing and advanced metering infrastructure, managed services, data science and analytics, and finance and asset performance management.

HCLTech partners with Intel and Mavenir for 5G solutions

HCLTech, a leading Indian technology services company revealed a new collaboration with Intel Corporation and Mavenir to develop and provide scalable private 5G network solutions for communication service providers (CSP) and broader cross-vertical enterprises.

Through this new collaboration, the companies will work closely on a range of projects and activities across enablement, go-to-market and sales acceleration, with the goal of delivering more 5G solutions to CSPs, Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise verticals, a statement said.

HCL

The three companies will work cross-functionally to add new offerings and help generate greater value for enterprises. The companies will develop a cloud-native enterprise-to-enterprise (E2E) architecture of an Intel Xeon processor-based 5G solution leveraging Mavenir RAN, Intel SmartEdge and HCLTech’s management, orchestration and automation services.

“There is currently a great need for scalable, reliable 5G solutions across nearly every enterprise and industry,” said Kalyan Kumar, Chief Technology Officer, HCLTech. “This need represents a major opportunity to innovate and deliver solutions that will have a major impact on business operations and outcomes.”

Collins Aerospace to expand operations in India

Collins Aerospace, which is part of Raytheon Technologies has announced that it will be expanding its operations in India. The company inaugurated its Global Engineering & Tech Centre and a new India Operations Centre to mark its 25th year in Bengaluru.

Collins Aerospace has also pledged significant capital and manpower investments over the next five years given that the Indian aerospace & defence (A&D) market is projected to reach $70 billion by 2030.

The team at Collins India is actively collaborating with Indian R&D organisations like NAL, CMTI, DRDO for study into materials, additive manufacturing, pre-qualification tests and other important projects.

Wipro bags top honour for workplace inclusion

Wipro Limited, a leading Indian technology services and consulting company, has been recognised as a ‘Gold’ employer by the India Workplace Equality Index (IWEI) 2022.

Awarded to the top employers by IWEI, the gold employer is the highest of 3 levels, where an organisation is credited with ‘embedding inclusion in the workplace.’ Highlights of Wipro’s efforts in this journey include recognition of Wipro’s leadership in India to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, from organisational policies to external communications.

wipro

It also demonstrates a long-term and in-depth commitment towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, where Wipro has implemented several initiatives enabling its employees to become active allies for the community.

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Corraling Kafka: New ecosystem simplifies, democratizes event-streaming data for enterprises

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Aiven, a cloud-data platform based in Helsinki, has fleshed out an open-source ecosystem for Apache Kafka, a popular event-streaming platform. The new offerings promise to help enterprises consolidate their Kafka infrastructure using open-source components. 

“Event streaming is transitioning toward the main stack of the IT infrastructure,” Filip Yonov, director of data streaming product management at Aiven, told VentureBeat. “At Aiven, we have witnessed the fastest growth in the event-streaming domain compared to all other products.”

Apache Kafka provides the infrastructure for wiring streams of data together from databases, apps, IoT devices, and third-party sources. Kafka helps organize raw data into event streams that reduce data size and are easier to integrate into event-driven apps and analytics. Enterprises use it to improve customer experiences, build the industrial metaverse and monitor patients. 

However, building out a Kafka infrastructure involves a lot of moving parts. Aiven has consolidated all the necessary tooling into one place to simplify this process. Key new enhancements include support for Apache Flink and data governance. These complement existing tools for connecting services, replicating data and managing schemas for Kafka deployments.

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The need for simplicity

LinkedIn originally developed Kafka to integrate data across its large microservices infrastructure and open-sourced it in 2011. Over the intervening years, large enterprises have customized the tooling for their own needs, and several vendors have rolled out proprietary enhancements to fill in gaps around governance and integration. Many organizations use Kafka for various data pipeline scenarios, such as transferring data between applications in real-time or moving data from a database to a data warehouse.

Yonov told VentureBeat that as Kafka clusters become larger and more complex, they require additional tooling and governance to ensure proper operation and management. “Unlike existing Kafka solutions, Aiven’s offering does not require organizations to choose between proprietary tools and vendor lock-in or open-source technologies without support,” he said.

Improving the developer experience with event streaming

One essential aspect has been to democratize the experience for working with event-streaming data. The open-source tool, Klaw, provides a self-service interface for managing Kafka clusters. Kafkawize, which develops Klaw, recently joined Aiven’s open-source development office in September to help integrate their tools together. Now they are working together to improve self-service, simplify user management and enforce data governance. 

Another significant development was to connect streaming data to SQL queries familiar to data engineers. The new Aiven for Apache Flink tools allows teams to process larger volumes of events and run real-time analytics using SQL. Aiven provides this as a fully managed service that reduces the complexity of deploying a Flink cluster. It also simplifies the integration with Aiven for Apache Kafka to filter, enrich and aggregate events on the fly. 

Aiven hopes to replicate the success of other open-source frameworks like PostgreSQL, Kubernetes and Linux, built by a healthy mix of contributions from various communities. 

“We truly believe that fostering an open-source, community-driven and inclusive ecosystem of technologies around Apache Kafka can drive further innovations and new developments in the data-streaming domain, ensuring the long sustainment of the technology in the future,” Yonov said.

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How do tech layoffs impact PERM and the green card process? • TechCrunch

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Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I handle HR and immigration at our tech company. We filed a PERM for one of our team members about five months ago for her EB-2 green card, and we’re awaiting certification from the Labor Department. We’ve been gearing up to start PERM for another employee.

Will the layoffs in the tech industry affect the PERM process for EB-2 and EB-3 green cards? What will happen to my team members’ green cards if our company has to do layoffs?

— Pondering in People Ops

Dear Pondering,

It’s wonderful that you’re steadfastly supporting your team with green card sponsorship. This can provide unfathomable peace of mind for people still on non-immigrant status in the U.S. through the green card process. We’re here to help ease the holiday season with education on the options for both companies and individuals.

Let’s dive into the winter wonderland of PERM and employment-sponsored green cards.

Will tech layoffs impact the PERM process?

For the permanent labor certification application — or PERM — your company is currently working on, the short answer is yes, the layoffs may have several different effects depending on where your company is in the process.

The PERM green card process is a multistep and time-intensive one involving a labor market recruitment test requiring employers to demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no qualified U.S. workers (U.S. citizens and green card holders) who are qualified, willing and able to fill the EB-2 or EB-3 PERM position. PERM also aims to ensure that the opportunities, wages and working conditions of U.S. citizens and green card holders are protected.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

If you are in or will soon start the PERM recruiting phase, you may receive a larger number of job applicants for your job posting due to the recent layoffs in the tech sector. With an uptick in potentially qualified applicants, it could prove more difficult to demonstrate that there is no qualified U.S. worker to fill the PERM role. If a qualified U.S. worker is ready, willing and able to fill the PERM role, the labor market test fails and the DOL will not grant the company’s PERM labor certification.

Keep in mind that unemployment is a big concern for the DOL. During the last recession, when millions of jobs were lost, DOL increased its scrutiny of the adjudication of PERMs, particularly within the financial sector, to ensure displaced U.S. workers were considered for positions before international talent.

At the moment, the U.S. unemployment rate is under 4%, so we have a ways to go before we match the 10.6% unemployment rate in 2010. Although there have been many layoffs in tech, I remain optimistic, as there are other indicators that the economy is still strong and there are many job requirements in and beyond the tech sector.



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