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Google launches Firebase Extensions and Analytics integration for app developers



Google’s Firebase is getting new tools and upgrades to help app developers get more done. These include new tools to test their creations, including a Google Analytics integration for tracking performance and analyzing insights from smartphone and web app usage stats.

To automate some work, Firebase Extensions is a set of premade code packages designed to help developers automate and complete common tasks, like resizing images or adding people to an email list. Extensions will be available through a GitHub repository or serverless offerings, like Google’s Cloud Functions.

Above: Firebase Extensions

To enable app developers to test their creations before launch, the Firebase Emulator Suite is getting Realtime Database support that enables testing of security rules or cloud functions before deployment.

Google is also introducing App Distribution to empower developers to release Android and iOS versions of an application to a limited pool of developers before making it publicly available. App Distribution supports projects made with Firebase CLI, Fastlane, and Griddle.

The news was shared today at Firebase Summit, which is taking place this week in Madrid, Spain. Firebase is currently used by more than 2 million developers making web apps or iOS and Android apps for mobile devices.

In other Firebase Summit news:

  • Firebase Predictions for automated audience segmentation is getting an upgrade so developers can generate AI-powered user behavior forecasts multiple times a day.
  • Developers can now send photos in messages to users inside apps. In-app messaging with Firebase was first made available in August 2018.
  • Following the release of recent Android and iOS libraries, Google will open-source Web SDK for Remote Config and Google Analytics.

In other major Firebase upgrades in the past year, this spring performance-monitoring was introduced for web apps, and at Firebase Summit last fall developers got enterprise support and ML Kit for facial recognition.


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Tech News

From COVID-19 to Inclusion: Fintech Faces New Challenges




In the middle of the first month of the year, one of the biggest names in the payments business acquired one of the most innovative fintech infrastructure companies in the industry, in a deal valued at more than $5 billion.

Six months later, Visa’s acquisition of Plaid almost seems like news from another time.

The arrival of the coronavirus to virtually every corner of the globe – and the worldwide response to the killing of a black man in police custody in the U.S. – have sent shock waves through the fintech industry – as they have the rest of the world. Now, at the same time, fintech is engaged in both the struggle to help businesses and consumers cope with the closures and shelter-in-place restrictions of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the challenge of correcting decades of discriminatory practices against African Americans and members of other underrepresented ethnic groups. As we approach the middle of 2020, fintech is facing different kind of crisis that, while not of its own making, will require a response that is uniquely tailored to the world it operates in.

This is a world that is both heavily technical, relying on the latest innovations in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and distributed ledger technology, while simultaneously pledging to bring the benefits of 21st century financial services to the underbanked and underserved populations of both post-industrial and developing economies. This is a world that has grown tremendously through the contributions of people from diverse backgrounds, representing cultures from almost every corner of the globe. Yet, at the same time, it is a world that is still struggling to achieve true gender and ethnic diversity, particularly in the C-suite and in the boardroom.

There are many ways to value an industry: the quality of the goods it produces; the entertainment, education, or simple well-being its services provide; even just the degree of pure, gee-whiz innovation the industry may deliver, often seeming to grant us what we want even before we summon up the nerve to wish for it.

But as the fintech industry edges closer, inexorably, toward maturity, it now finds itself increasingly judged on the kind of criteria Corporate America – often to its own surprise and bewilderment – can find itself judged on from time to time. This is a judgement that has less to do with what Corporate America makes and sells, and more with who Corporate America is and what it values.

Both the global public health crisis and the renewed determination to fight racial inequality are providing fintech as an industry with an opportunity to show the world just what it’s made of. As we move into the second half of this historic year, I am hopeful and optimistic that fintech will rise to the challenge.


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Tech News

Mastercard to Acquire Finicity in $825 Million Deal




For a year that began with Visa’s headline-making acquisition of Plaid, it seems almost poetic that near 2020’s midway mark, Mastercard would make a major fintech bid of its own.

The company has agreed to acquire Finicity, a real-time financial data and analytics provider and long-time Finovate alum, in a deal valued at nearly $1 billion. This figure represents a combination of the $825 million purchase price of the Salt Lake City, Utah fintech, as well as a potential earn-out for Finicity’s existing shareholders – subject to the company meeting certain performance targets.

“Since our founding, Nick Thomas and I have focused on developing industry-leading technology and building an organization that empowers consumers and organizations to better understand, manage, and use their financial data to improve their financial lives,” Finicity co-founder and CEO Steve Smith said. “Enabling people to access and control their data, while ensuring best practices to protect that data, will continue to drive tremendous innovation that increases financial literacy, inclusion, and health. This partnership with Mastercard helps us accelerate this mission globally.”

Mastercard President Michael Miebach cited open banking as one of the reasons for the company’s interest in Finicity. Referring to open banking as both a “growing global trend” and a “strategically important space,” Miebach praised Finicity’s ability to leverage open banking APIs to enable financial data and insights to streamline lending and mortgage processes, account-based payment initiation, and other PFM services. He also credited the company for its focus on the data rights of the consumer.

“(Finicity) shares our commitment to consumer-centric data practices, ensuring consumers have a say in how and where their information should be used,” Miebach said.

Founded in 2000, Finicity provides financial data APIs, credit decisioning tools, and financial wellness solutions that help financial institutions and fintechs better serve their customers. The company’s technology helps power solutions like Experian Boost and Rocket Mortgage from Quicken Loans. Named a Best Place to Work in Fintech by American Banker for the last three consecutive years, Finicity began 2020 partnering with SaaS-based marketing automation, CRM, and POS solution provider for banks and mortgage companies, Volly.


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Tech News

Apple’s chips to overcome Intel silicon “valley”




After years of rumours, it’s now official: Apple is breaking up with Intel.

At its Worldwide Developers Conference 2020, which kicked off on Monday, Apple announced plans to sell Mac computers using its own processors beginning this year, moving away from Intel’s chips. The news sent Apple to a new all-time high with a year-to-date climb that has now exceeded 22 percent.

Intel’s stock still managed to track broader gains in US stock markets, although it remains some 13 percent below its year-to-date high.

The breakup of the 15-year relationship however carries more symbolic value than financial pain.

In its 2019 financial year, Mac computers accounted for less than 10 percent of Apple’s total revenue. Over the prior three financial years (FY 2016-2018), fewer than 20 million MAC computers were sold per FY, which is less than half of the total number of iPads sold. iPhones remain the company’s primary hardware product, making up about 77 percent of total units sold, while accounting for more than half of total revenue according to Bloomberg data. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that the Mac line of computers accounts for less than five percent of Intel’s annual revenue.

While this latest move appears to be chipping away at Intel’s position as the world’s largest chipmaker, Apple’s own position is also being challenged.

The Cupertino-based company is facing a backlash from third-party developers who will play a crucial role in ensuring that apps can still function well on the new Macs that are set to be powered by Apple’s own processors by year-end. Apple however appears to have extended an olive branch to the developer community on Monday by allowing them to challenge App store policies.

At the same time, US and European regulators are scrutinising Apple’s policies over its App Store, which contributed about 18 percent of Apple’s total revenue in the 2019 fiscal year, a figure which exceeded US$ 46 billion. The iPhone maker is also still contending with the ill effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Just last week, Apple announced that it will reclose 11 stores in Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and South Carolina amid a resurgence in Covid-19 cases. While the immediate impact appears minor for the time being, a larger wave of US lockdowns could erode Apple’s sales, considering its reliance on hardware sales.

Even when faced against such headwinds, markets are still holding up Apple as the world’s most valuable company, with a market cap of US$1.555 trillion. Given the grip it has over its software and hardware ecosystems, Apple’s shares are expected to ride out potential valleys to come and climb onto loftier peaks.


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