Progress report: With AI to innovation and sustainable growth

As a member of Germany’s AI Plattform Lernende Systeme it is very inspiring to read this progress report and learn what has been achieved by Germany’s best experts in this field.

Please find the LINK TO THE REPORT HERE

Concept and aims of the Platform

Self-learning systems are increasingly becoming a driving force behind digitalisation in business and society. They are based on Artificial Intelligence technologies and methods that are currently developing at a rapid pace in terms of performance. Self-learning systems are machines, robots and software systems that learn from data and use it to autonomously complete tasks that have been described in an abstract fashion – all without specific programming for each step.

Self-learning systems are becoming increasingly commonplace supporting people in their work and everyday lives. For example, they can be used to develop autonomous traffic systems, improve medical diagnostics and assist emergency services in disaster zones. They can help improve quality of life in many different respects, but are also fundamentally changing how humans and machines interact.

Self-learning systems have immense economic potential. As digitalisation takes hold, they are already helping companies in certain sectors to create entirely new business models based on data usage and are radically changing conventional value creation chains. This is opening up opportunities for new businesses, but can also represent a threat to established market leaders should they fail to react quickly enough.

Developing and introducing self-learning systems calls for special core skills, which need to be carefully nurtured to secure Germany’s pioneering role in this field. Using self-learning systems also raises numerous social, legal, ethical and security questions – with regard to data protection and liability, but also responsibility and transparency. To tackle these issues, we need to engage in broad-based dialogues as early as possible.

Plattform Lernende Systeme brings together leading experts in self-learning systems and Artificial Intelligence from science, industry, politics and civic organisations. In specialised focus groups, they discuss the opportunities, challenges and parameters for developing self-learning systems and using them responsibly. They derive scenarios, recommendations, design options and road maps from the results.

The Platform aims to:

  • shape self-learning systems to ensure positive, fair and responsible social coexistence,
  • strengthen skills for developing and using self-learning systems,
  • act as an independent intermediary to combine different perspectives,
  • promote dialogue within society on Artificial Intelligence,
  • develop objectives and scenarios for the application of self-learning systems,
  • encourage collaboration in research and development,
  • position Germany as the leading supplier of technology for self-learning systems.

Hybrid Seminar: Banking Use Cases of Blockchain Technology

The participants of the seminar acquire knowledge that enables them as decision-makers to understand projects that are to use blockchain technology more quickly, to recognise opportunities and risks and to evaluate them together with experts.

It is a pleasure for me, as Managing Director of Prosegur Crypto GmbH, to support the seminar together with other leading blockchain experts such as Christoph Impekoven (micobo), Markus Honvehlmann (micobo), Dr. Marc Henniges (d-fine), Dr. Timo Bernau (GSK), Lucas Zaehringer (verity) and Cara Reuner (Ecota) to train banking experts to create future innovative use cases. We will discuss:

Digital Money

  • Central Bank Digital Money – Stable Coins
  • Programmable Money
  • E-Money Tokens

For more details please refer to the website of BZ-Live: https://www.bzlive.de/veranstaltung/1606//

Technological Breakthroughs: A Beacon of Hope for the Future

After a challenging 2022 this year ends with HOPE due to a rally of technological innovation breakthroughs. Technological progress has the potential to help address many of the challenges facing the world today, including the energy crisis, the need for better education, and financial inclusion. Three of them shall be brought to your attention: 1. CLEAN ENERGY – Breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology; 2. EDUCATION – ChatGPT is changing the way to experience artificial intelligence; 3. PRIVACY & FINANCIAL INCLUSION – New compliant pathways for privacy and security in the blockchain-based financial ecosystem

Breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology

One area where technology is helping to address the energy crisis is through the development of nuclear fusion as a potential source of clean, abundant energy. Nuclear fusion is a process in which atomic nuclei combine to release energy, and it has the potential to provide a virtually limitless source of energy with low carbon emissions. While significant progress has been made in developing fusion technology, it is still in the early stages of development and has not yet been fully commercialized. However, the potential for nuclear fusion to help address the energy crisis makes it a promising area of research and development.

In December 2022 the National Ignition Facility (NIF) has successfully sparked a fusion reaction that released more energy than went into it. Even though there’s still a long way to go toward fusion as a clean energy source, this step can be considered as a major step forward.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS BREAKTHROUGH IN THIS FUSION TECHNOLOGY MARATHON

ChatGPT changes the way you experience artificial intelligence

ChatGPT, also known as OpenAI’s GPT-3 Chatbot API, is a natural language processing (NLP) tool developed by OpenAI. It is based on the GPT-3 model, which is a large, advanced AI language model that is capable of generating human-like text.

Overall, ChatGPT is changing the way we experience and interact with AI by making it easier to build and deploy chatbot applications that can understand and respond to user input in a natural, human-like way.

ChatGPT can be used to build chatbots and other NLP applications that can understand and respond to user input in a natural, human-like way. It is designed to be easy to use and integrate into existing systems, allowing developers to quickly build and deploy chatbot applications without the need for extensive training data.

One advantage of ChatGPT is its ability to understand and respond to a wide range of inputs and topics. It is trained on a large dataset of text and has the ability to generate coherent and contextually appropriate responses to a variety of inputs. This can make it a useful tool for building chatbots and other NLP applications that need to handle a wide range of queries and topics.

(Text has been created by ChatGPT)

CHALLENGE ChatGPT YOURSELF AND BE AMAZED. FIND OUT MORE HERE

New compliant pathways for privacy and security in the blockchain-based financial ecosystem

Innovation in blockchain privacy can bring a number of advantages to the financial ecosystem, particularly in terms of increasing the security and confidentiality of transactions. By combining this innovation with a 100% collateralized stablecoin, it is possible to create a more secure and stable digital currency that can be used for a wide range of financial transactions.

One advantage of using a 100% collateralized coin is that it is pegged to a specific asset, such as a fiat currency or commodity, which helps to stabilize its value and reduce price volatility. This can make it more attractive to users, as it reduces the risk of loss due to price fluctuations. The German Digital Cash GmbH just announced to have issued the first 100% compliant, central-bank-money-backed, Made in Germany, Euro-coin on UniSwap, called Digital Cash Euro (DCEUR). READ MORE ON THE DCEUR HERE

In terms of privacy, a blockchain-based stablecoin that incorporates innovative privacy features can help to protect the confidentiality of transactions by making it more difficult for outsiders to track and monitor them. This can be particularly useful for financial institutions and individuals.

Researchers from German crypto blockchain-based payments fintech etonec and other organizations have proposed using zero-knowledge proofs to ensure regulatory compliance and privacy in stablecoins. They have created a design that allows fiat-based stablecoins to be used like cash, within limits.

Dr. Jonas Gross, states on December 15, 2022 to CoinTelegraph: “How can privacy for digital payments be preserved, while ensuring stability and regulatory compliance? In this feasibility study co-authored by @etonec_gmbh@MinaFoundation@Privatbank1796, and @SnT_uni_lu we show how it can be done.“ FIND THE THE FULL STUDY HERE

Overall, the combination of a 100% collateralized stablecoin with innovative privacy features can bring a number of benefits to the financial ecosystem, including increased security, stability, and confidentiality.

Conclusion

Overall, technological progress has the potential to help address many of the challenges facing the world today, and it will likely continue to play a crucial role in finding solutions to these problems in the future.

December 2022 seems to be a good month in this respect. A month that shall give hope.

Experts Exchange to develop prosperity, freedom, social participation and sustainability: The Federal Government Digital Summit 2022

It was a great pleasure to meet again personally and be connected virtually with friends like Dr. Andreas Heindl and Dr. Johannes Winter who, like many others inside and outside this Digital Summit, dedicate their passion to the digitisation of Germany day after day. Their passion is the engine for Germany’s competitiveness and prosperity. Exchanges like today between Germany’s leading experts in the field of digitalisation and the German government are crucial for the country’s future innovation.

This was underlined today by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the ministers Robert Habeck, Volker Wissing, Nancy Faeser and Bettina Stark-Watzinger. A special motivation was given by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Japan’s Digital Minister Tarō Konō.

Congratulations to the organization committee and thank you for the kind invitation. Details can be found HERE

Digital Summit 2022

Germany’s digitisation continues to remain one of the main topics of the German government. The aim is to accelerate and promote digitisation processes and to exploit their potential to develop prosperity, freedom, social participation, and sustainability.

In this context, the Digital Summit remains the central platform for shaping the digital transformation with all parties involved. It focuses on the key fields of action within the digital transformation across ten topic-based platforms. The platforms and their focus groups are made up of representatives from business, academia and society who, between summit meetings, work together to develop projects, events and initiatives designed to drive digitisation in business and society forward. The Summit will serve to present the results of the work that has been done in the past, to highlight new trends and discuss digital challenges and policy approaches.

This year’s Digital Summit of the Federal Government will be held on 8 and 9 December 2022. The Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action will jointly coordinate the summit’s preparation in the future. In the new legislature, new formats, concrete results and international impulses are to make it the driving force and showcase for digitisation in Germany and beyond.

Supporting the Japanese government in the planning of the “Realising a Global Society” agenda.

Nomura Research Institute, one of the largest think tank in Japan has been appointed by the Government of Japan-Ministry of Economic, Trade, and Industry (METI) to promote the globalization of Japanese and Foreign companies in Japan and to understand the current business & living environment of Japan.

This study is to help the Government of Japan formulate better foreign policies in the future.

It’s with pleasure supporting this initiative, which aims to promote international understanding through exchange.

Read more at Nomura Research Institute (https://www.nri.com) and Japan-Ministry of Economic, Trade, and Industry (METI) (www.meti.go.jp/english/)

The Quantum Race

It was very inspiring to have the opportunity to participate in the workshop on responsible quantum technologies with some of the world’s most recognised experts in the field. Congratulations and thanks a lot to the organisation committee.

Please find details HERE

The second quantum revolution has been ongoing for more than two decades now and many countries around the globe have noticed the promises of these technologies. Just in the last decade, the number of publicly supported national initiatives grew from zero to more than 15, with globally more than 20 B€ of public investments allocated or planned. Both the number of new publications per year and patents granted on quantum technologies (QT) has also been climbing steadily for the last decade, so has been the number of start-ups being founded and established companies getting into the field. Finally, the field started receiving attention from private funding sources in recent years, which some have been calling the ‘quantum gold rush’. Within two decades, QT became a strong contender for a potential future industry from a topic that was mainly discussed in physics conferences.

All this rapid development triggered a sort of quantum ‘race’, where countries, companies, and institutions compete to become the first to achieve a checkpoint or to be the current best at some quantum benchmark. However, it is also noted by many that the real/transformative effects of QT on society will be in the long run. In this respect, we would like to initiate a discussion on responsibility and introduce QT as a noteworthy emerging topic for technology assessment (TA) studies.

This workshop aimed to be another step towards establishing connections between the QT and TA communities and to introduce some current discussions in the QT community to a new audience. It is organized as a collaboration between the QuTec project under KIT-ITAS, and the QUCATS Coordination and Support Action of the Quantum Flagship program. 

The conference program consisted of panels such as:

Panel on Responsible Education and Workforce Development for QT

  • Moderator: Araceli Venegas-Gomez (QURECA)
  • Panelists: Tatjana Wilk (MCQST), Maria Luisa Chiofalo (University of Pisa), İlke Ercan (TU Delft)

Panel on RRI and Ethics in QT

  • Moderator: Pieter Vermaas (TU Delft)
  • Panelists: Oxana Mishina (CNR-INO), Carolyn Ten Holter (Oxford), Douglas K. R. Robinson (CNRS), Robert Whitney (Université Grenoble Alpes)

Panel: How to think responsibly on the geopolitics of QT?

  • Moderator: Astrid Bötticher (University of Jena)
  • Speakers: Pieter Vermaas (TU Delft), Matthias C. Kettemann (IQEL, University of Innsbruck/HIIG), Mira L. Wolf-Bauwens  (IBM Research Europe)

What do Napoleon, the Rothschilds and the Duke of Wellington have to do with CIT industry?

In their historical-social debate “Cash, book money, cryptocurrencies and the digital euro“ on money in the digital age in the book “Praxisbeispiele der Digitalisierung” (Practical Examples of Digitalisation) published by Springer Gabler Verlag, the co-authors Jochen Werne and Johannes Winter use historical examples to show the interconnectedness of various actors in the cycle of our money today.

Read an excerpt of chapter 9.3.1. on the historical role of CIT – cash in transit here:

Making money available and the central role of cash-in-transit logistics

In the case of cash, the person concerned has direct, unrestricted physical power of disposal over his money in the form of coins or banknotes. However, the fact that this is not yet given when the money is minted or printed in bank vaults, but only when it is delivered to the owner, is of crucial importance. To illustrate the importance of this step and thus also the role of the transport of money and valuables, a historical event from the Rotschild Archives can be used.


„The Rothschilds supplied the Duke of Wellington with gold during the Napoleonic Wars and saved Wellington’s armies from almost certain defeat. Between 1793 and 1815, Britain was almost continuously at war with France, which placed an enormous burden on the British treasury. By 1813, Wellington’s armies had managed to push the French back as far as the Pyrenees, but the financial situation had become critical. Wellington desperately needed gold and silver coins that he could exchange locally to pay and feed his troops and thus maintain morale. J.C. Herries, the British government’s chief commissioner, was responsible for financing and equipping the British armies in the field. Herries was looking for a middleman who could secretly procure large quantities of gold without alerting the French. In January 1814 he officially engaged Nathan Mayer Rothschild. Over the previous five years Nathan had built up an extensive network of couriers, dealers, brokers and bankers to facilitate his gold trading activities. Over time, he had established a dominant position as a gold broker in the City of London. After receiving the commission from Herries, Nathan instructed his brothers on the Continent to buy gold wherever they could, secretly and in small quantities so as not to disturb the market. Once the gold was gathered, it was shipped and forwarded to Wellington in the south of France so that he could pay his troops” (Rothschild Archives 2021).

Alongside many small and medium-sized players, the three corporations Prosegur, Brinks and Loomis dominate the main part of the consolidating world market for cash and cash-in-transit. By supplying retailers, banks and private individuals via ATMs and branches, as well as repatriating funds, the industry ensures that the cash cycle is maintained and that each individual’s power of disposal over cash is upheld.

BUY THE BOOK HERE

Interview: Prosegur‘s Jochen Werne on the relevance of networks and keeping track of the bigger picture

THANK YOU CATHARINA and BENTE FOR A GREAT TALK.

Please find the original talk HERE

In the midst of these crazy times, most industries still haven’t gotten their shit together. However, a few bright minds managed to understand the paradigm shift, act accordingly and reap the rewards. So, Catharina van Delden and Bente Zehan talked to some of them! Join us on our learning journey over the next few weeks to see how completely unrelated industries deal very differently with the same challenges we all share – and let’s become better together!

Jochen Werne is Prosegur’s Chief Development and Chief Visionary Officer since 2019. Before that, he worked at different banks, most recently as a director of the German Bankhaus Lenz & Co. Since the beginning of 2022, he is also the managing director of Prosegur Crypto, which is applying for a crypto custody license in Germany. 

The Madrid-based company Prosegur offers different security services worldwide. They’re most famous for their cash-in-transit services, with more than 50% market share in Germany. In recent years, Prosegur has explored ways to provide digital security services based on its long experience in a non-digital world. 

How do you develop new business models and drive innovation within a company that makes its money with a very traditional business model like cash-in-transit? 

I would like to jump right in with a personal example: Before I joined Prosegur in 2019, I had a career in banking. When you work in treasury, you have a lot of money you need to invest. As a bank, we were engaged in the investment business and in our case, most of the money had to be invested in the short term, unfortunately within a negative interest rate environment throughout the last years. So, the best solution would have been to put your money under the mattress instead of in a bank account. When I joined Prosegur, I explained this pain point and we discussed how we could solve this problem for treasurers. Since anything which has fewer costs than 0,5% is considered profit for a treasurer, we offered asset managers, high net worth individuals, and banks custody of short-term liquidity fully insured and compliant in our high-security facilities. 

You’re in the security sector. From another conversation I recall you talking a lot about feeling safe vs. actually being safe – an image Catharina and I discussed before starting this series. Our example is a house standing by a cliff, with that a giant tsunami arriving. Instead of thinking about how to relocate, many industries seem to wonder about putting solar panels on the roof and perhaps repainting. Both are valid things to do – however, perhaps they’d have a different focus if they had zoomed out. Is that also a topic within your company, and how do you handle such problems? 

This is how new business models and innovations can emerge: You have to take a different perspective, look at other people’s problems and find solutions based on your own experience and knowledge. That is an excellent picture. And if you take that into account, I think also from a psychological point of view, we live in our bubbles. Let’s take, for example, the phenomenon of social media: You “privately” click a like button, watch a video, or comment on a post without really knowing how much this very private behavioral data is influencing an algorithm (which in the best case just targets you as a potential buyer of a certain product). After all, you are only doing it “privately” – but you’re not! If you were to zoom out, you’re back at your tsunami example. It happens in everyday discussions, from climate change to energy crises. Sometimes, people take a point of view and go blindly in one direction. If you’re able to zoom out, you’re also able to change your behavior and find many more solutions to problems. 

When making decisions and discussing innovations, it’s important to accept that you yourself are not able to see the whole picture. And based on that, you should go into discussions with an open mind – without thinking you’re completely right and cannot learn anything from the others. Innovation can only happen when people think outside the box, try to understand the whole picture, make new connections, and then act on their new insights. 

Business leaders also need to ask themselves how they can innovate. Do they talk about the future, about what they need to create, and how it is no longer the same? Or are they just pushing to quickly return to their classic KPI models, missing the direction the rest of the world is moving in? 

How do you take actions from the big picture and implement them? Basically, how do you zoom in again? 

Prosegur works in an industry with low-profit margins. We can never sit back and say, “Yes, we have a wonderful company here, everything is going great!” It is labor-intensive work with – obviously – high labor costs. 

So we can’t afford to be just visionary; we also need to focus on the essentials. We need justified results every month. Therefore, more than in other sectors, the rule is: if you deliver results, people will listen to you. It’s also part of my job to enthuse people and help them understand new concepts. But I wouldn’t say that’s purely related to my role; anyone in a leadership position should see it that way. Prosegur is a big matrix organization, so you have to use your network to move things forward. 

In security, there are a lot of processes with rigid security protocols that won’t be changed in an agile approach quickly and easily. But with other and industry-adequate means the teams are improving efficiency every day. 

How do you go about that? 

People have to be trained. Otherwise, it won’t work. You have to get people to change. But don’t be surprised that the goal will never be achieved 100% because you will never get everyone to embrace change. Resistance to change within the individual is far too great and it’s very often just too convenient to stay in the comfort zone. 

I would like to come back to your example of the house on a cliff. I have seen people who’ve ended up in a disaster professionally because they didn’t want to or were afraid to go into action. You have to be open-minded and sometimes even force yourself out of your personal comfort zone.   

You founded Prosegur Crypto GmbH – a business model that to the untrained eye has little to do with your core business: cash. In convincing your board this is a relevant thing to do what are your learnings regarding the degree decision-makers need to understand new technology? Should everyone become a super tech expert?  

I don’t ask the whole company’s management to be full experts on all technologies. That’s impossible. But please – as a responsible decision-maker – understand the leading technologies existing in this world! For example, as a banker, you should understand the concept behind blockchain. Of course, this is very technological, and most people can’t explain it in a good manner, but you must understand it. To better understand, decision-makers should have a “new-in-tech” training every couple of months, besides all the usual management training. 

So, my appeal to every business leader is: Take your time and try to at least get the gist of things. You should understand what technology can and cannot do, and not just follow your daily headlines. The second part is to really listen to your existing experts whom you pay to know all the details. They need to be at the table and give their input to assess the next useful steps. 

Lastly, we’ve talked a lot about networks. What are your best practices regarding this? 

It is one of my favorite topics! First of all, you need to know that networks have not just existed since social media came into existence but have always existed. Network organizations have always brought – likewise interested – people together. Unfortunately, also on this topic, we do have to step out of our comfort zones to broaden our perspective. Otherwise, our networks take us as prisoners and we are as the known proverb says birds of the same feather who flock together.  

There is very good literature on networks: like “The Square and the Tower” by Niall Ferguson or “The Starfish and the Spider” by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. Everyone should read these books. 

————————————-

Tl;dr for the lazy

• People live in their bubbles and make themselves too comfortable within them, even if it sets them up to fail. It’s important that companies (and we as a society) zoom out to see the bigger picture. 
• Innovation and new business development can only happen if you combine your own experiences and opinions with other points of view. 
• Companies need to go beyond just recreating and reusing what has already worked for them. They should start asking questions and finding solutions that truly bring them on the right paths into the future. Even or especially if that means that they need to get out of their “safe space” (which is not so safe after all). 
• Instead of judging ideas and innovations as being “good or bad”, look at what they “can and cannot do” 
• You need to train and communicate openly with people to overcome the resistance towards change. 

Money in the digital age

Hot off the press: Money in the digital age – a Springer Gabler book contribution

It was a pleasure contributing in co-authorship with the AI-expert and friend Dr. Johannes Winter / Jochen Werne to this new Springer Gabler publication ”Praxisbeispiele der Digitalisierung” (Best Practice of Digitilisation) which is available now as e-book and paperback at https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-658-37903-2

Cash, Book Money, Crypto Currencies and the Digital Euro

The aim of the chapter in the book is a contribution to the debate of money in the digital age. It combines historical insights into the meaning of money with the latest technological developments, to compare visions of the financial industry with realities and to develop options for action to shape the digital transformation of money.

Abstract: In a world where tech companies are leading campaigns to create a new cryptocurrency and bitcoin is surpassing the US$50,000 mark because a visionary electric car maker wants to recognise the cryptocurrency as a means of payment, some fundamental questions arise: how must money be defined in a digital world to reliably fulfil the characteristics of a universally recognised store of value and medium of exchange? And what changes are in store for the financial industry when so-called stablecoins proliferate and challenge the banks’ classic deposit business and their outdated business models? The aim of this contribution to the debate is to combine historical insights into the meaning of money with the latest technological developments in the digital age, to compare visions of the financial industry with realities and to develop options for action for shaping the digital transformation of money.

All contributions to the book

  1. Management
    1. Front MatterPages 1-1
    2. Chancen und Risiken der digitalen Transformation
      • Mark Harwardt, Andre M. SchmuttePages 3-29
    3. Der Enterprise Transformation Cycle
      • Peter F. -J. SteinhoffPages 31-45
    4. Künstliche Intelligenz für die Geschäftsmodellinnovation
      • Johannes WinterPages 47-64
    5. Künstliche Intelligenz im Management
      • Jeanette Kalimeris, Sabrina Renz, Sebastian Hofreiter, Matthias SpörrlePages 65-82
    6. Bargeld, Buchgeld, Kryptowährungen und digitaler Euro
      • Jochen Werne, Johannes WinterPages 83-99
  2. Marketing
    1. Front MatterPages 101-101
    2. Elektronische Marktplätze – Potenziale, Vor- und Nachteile der Online-Intermediäre
      • Mark Harwardt, Vanessa Julia HaselhoffPages 103-135
    3. Digitale Plattformen – Grundlagen, Herausforderungen und Lösungsansätze
      • Vanessa Julia Haselhoff, Mark HarwardtPages 137-158
    4. Digital Transformation of the Commercial Functions of B2B Companies
      • Axel SteuernagelPages 159-195
    5. Digitale Customer Journey
      • Benjamin BirzerPages 197-210
    6. Service Design in einer digitalisierten Omnikanalwelt: von Kundenreisen und der Möglichkeit zu scheitern
      • Andreas SchölerPages 211-233
  3. Organisation
    1. Front MatterPages 235-235
    2. Herleitung eines möglichen Qualitätssicherungskonzepts für digitale M-Health-Angebote in der Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung
      • Mathias Bellinghausen, Luisa Maria Waerdt, Heiko BaumeisterPages 237-269
    3. Fragilität, Resilienz, Antifragilität von Organisationen: Implikation für digitale Strukturen
      • Thomas Heinrich Steiner, Christian Hager, Matthias SpörrlePages 271-289
    4. Consulting 4.0
      • Jessica NagelPages 291-297
  4. Sport- und Eventmanagement
    1. Front MatterPages 299-299
    2. Eventisierung und Digitalisierung von Sportevents – ein Ausblick auf die Sportveranstaltungen der Zukunft
      • Thomas Apitzsch, Katharina Schöttl, Florian Kainz, Oliver AngermüllerPages 301-308
    3. Eventmanagement 2.0 – Veranstaltungsplanung und -umsetzung im Zeichen der Digitalisierung
      • Thomas Apitzsch, Michael Pfleger, Frederike HaberlandPages 309-325

About Springer Gabler

Springer Gabler Verlag is the leading specialist publisher for the business sector. Its classic and digital teaching materials and specialist media address current business questions and provide reliable, practical solutions.

Press Brand Story: George Clooney would have no chance

The secret bunker for bitcoin assets

Published on 24.06.2022 | Reading time: 6 minutes

Source: Die Welt – original language German | Translated by deepl.com

International security company Prosegur stores cryptocurrencies in super-secret locations without internet access. Partner O₂ Telefónica makes the communication possible and ensures that it is secure.

Looking at money, it quickly becomes clear that times have changed. In the ten biggest bank robberies, around 1.5 billion euros were taken, all told. In crypto hacks, it was around 3.9 billion euros in 2021 alone, according to the analysis company Crystal.

Jochen Werne is not surprised. “Anything of value arouses covetousness.” Werne is Chief Development Officer and Chief Visionary Officer Prosegur Germany. He develops new services for the German subsidiary of the international security group. Prosegur Crypto GmbH offers such a service, Werne is managing director: a custodian for digital assets – without an internet connection.

New money, new risks, new security concepts

Security world market leader Prosegur is famous for its yellow money carriers and became big in the cash business. With the boom of cryptocurrencies, new demands came to the company with headquarters in Madrid. The goal: to be able to offer the world’s most secure storage method for cryptocurrencies. In Germany, Prosegur works together with the business customer division of O2 Telefónica. Together, they are setting themselves up at a new level of security – the highest level, because billions in Bitcoin, Ethereum and other digital currencies are at stake.

“Our goal is to help give the new ecosystem the trust it deserves through security components,” says Werne. “Our history is closely intertwined with the security of any asset. Crypto custody is a logical evolution of our business.”

O2 networks vaults and money

O2 Telefónica is taking over the communication for Prosegur Germany, and completely. Karsten Pradel, Director B2B at O2 Telefónica, explains: “It starts with the mobile phone service for 3300 employees. In addition, around 1,000 of Prosegur’s yellow armoured cars and networked safes are equipped with a Global SIM from O2 Telefónica. In this way, the armoured vans and the security boxes are directly and securely connected to Prosegur’s company network. Via GPS, the routes of cash transporters can be documented and secured.”

O2 also provides fast fibre-optic access and secures internal communication against external access with VPN (Virtual Private Network) access. A completely new feature is a software-controlled data network (SD-WAN): this allows the Prosegur data traffic to be controlled intelligently and quickly.

In this way, the environment at the site can be secured against threats – where the internet traffic originates. An intelligent component links all communication paths and always selects the best one. This has three advantages, says Sören Jahnke, Global Solutions Engineer at O2 Telefónica: “A lot of bandwidth at a low price, more redundancy and thus communication security (because copper cable, fibre or mobile are used depending on availability and demand) and a better user experience because the services work better: ‘Everything runs much faster'”.

Where it gets critical is when people and the internet come into play

Prosegur aims to offer the ultimate crypto custody method. Yet transactions in cryptocurrencies are actually secure. Their cash book is the blockchain. That’s where the crypto money is stored. The blockchain is a digital document; digital copies of this document are stored simultaneously on a large number of computers – this makes it forgery-proof. When a transaction is made, the data chain contained in the document is supplemented in all copies by a data block that can never be deleted again.

However, it becomes critical when people and the internet come into play. Anyone who trades in cryptocurrencies needs a wallet. This is a kind of digital wallet. The wallet software in turn creates a digital signature and processes a transaction with the owner’s private key. Only in this way does the owner gain access to his crypto treasures stored in the blockchain and can use them. “You can always trace every step, what happened when and where,” says Jochen Werne.

Danger for assets and for people

This wallet can be made available in an app or on a computer and is usually connected to the internet. This is called a “hot wallet” – it is convenient because transactions can be made quickly, but it is vulnerable to hacker attacks. A “cold wallet” (also called “cold storage”) works without direct internet access – this can be a USB stick, for example. This form of asset storage has two problems. Firstly, a cold wallet can be the target of an extortionist or robber, just like a gold bar or large amounts of cash stored at home. Secondly, cold wallets are only secure as long as they are disconnected from the internet.

“For us, cold storage is not enough,” says Jochen Werne. “Because having large assets at the disposal of only one person not only endangers the assets, but also the person who has that power of disposal. Here, criminals not only resort to direct threats of violence on this person, but they often also threaten family members.” Prosegur Crypto therefore takes a different approach. The company stores customer data in a hardware security module (HSM). The technology works in much the same way as we would expect in an agent film.

No chance for “Ocean’s Eleven”

“This is a computer in a military-standard shielded case that is kept in one of our high-security facilities and is not connected to the internet,” Werne explains. If, contrary to all expectations, such a device should fall into the wrong hands, it deletes the stored data. Security protocols then stipulate that the data can be reconstructed via a highly complex system equipped with appropriate codes. Prosegur has a whole range of high-security facilities. The locations of the crypto-bunkers are, of course, secret.

“The entire security is fully electronically monitored with various modules and security protocols on several levels. These are smart fences, for example, where possible threats are analysed by artificial intelligence,” says Werne. Even an attack like in the film “Ocean’s Eleven” – George Clooney’s crew simply turns off the power there – would not work.

“WE BELIEVE WE CAN OFFER THE MOST SECURE CUSTODY METHOD FOR CRYPTO ASSETS IN THE WORLD”

JOCHEN WERNE
Chief Development Officer and Chief Visionary Officer Prosegur Germany


And yet Prosegur customers can initiate blockchain transactions online – what follows is a sophisticated process. In the process, the hardware security module connects to a computer network that makes blockchain transactions possible.

The technology comes from GK8, a company specialising in crypto technology; the method used here is so-called multi-party computing (MPC). The transaction is transferred to the user’s blockchain via several security instances, using a patented technology that does not require a direct connection to the internet. This secures the critical moment of the transaction. “Everything else stays in cold storage” – most of the time the crypto assets are in the Prosegur high-security vault, without an internet connection. Jochen Werne: “We believe that we can offer the most secure custody method for crypto assets in the world. Currently, we are preparing to launch this service with the appropriate licensing in the strictly regulated German market as well.”