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Swiss central bank SNB explores use of digital currency for trading

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A picture taken on September 25, 2019 in Bern shows the building of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), the central bank of Switzerland.

FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images

Switzerland’s central bank is working with the country’s stock exchange to examine the possible use of digital currencies in trading.

In a statement on Tuesday, Swiss stock exchange operator SIX Group said it was partnering with the Swiss National Bank (SNB) on a proof of concept to “explore how digital central bank money could be used in the settlement of tokenized assets between market participants.”

Such a framework could involve connecting the Swiss mechanism for clearing payments with the proposed digital exchange, or the issuance of an electronic version of the Swiss franc from the SNB.

The research will be carried out at a hub set up by the SNB in partnership with the Bank for International Settlements, an umbrella group for the world’s largest central banks.

‘Tokenization’

SIX has been working on a digital exchange that would use blockchain, the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, issue and settle trades in digital assets.

A big focus of the group is the “tokenization” of traditional assets like shares and bonds — essentially creating digital versions of such securities — a move the firm claims would reduce the time it takes to complete a trade, from a number of days down to less than a second.

Thomas Zeeb, head of securities and exchanges at SIX, recently told CNBC that it was seeing increased interest in the tokenization of niche investments like art gallery collections.

“Some of the Asian markets are quite keen on tokenizing things that are related to a passion,” he said in an interview last month. “You could tokenize part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, thereby fund some of that collection and attach to that access to the twice-a-year gala event.”

“That kind of passion investing is something that we’re seeing quite a lot of interest in,” he added.

The news comes as Facebook looks to introduce its libra cryptocurrency. Major global central banks have been looking further into the creation of their own digital currencies, with China’s central bank having recently said it is close to releasing its own virtual coin.

Meanwhile, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has proposed a digital alternative to the U.S. dollar to become the world’s reserve currency.

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Trade war may give China a head start in race for Middle East, Africa

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Ben Harburg, Managing Partner of MSA Capital and Rafik Nayed, Group Chief Executive Officer of Al Salam Bank Bahrain speak with Geoff Cutmore, anchor of CNBC on Day 3 of CNBC East Tech West at LN Garden Hotel Nansha Guangzhou on November 20, 2019 in Nansha, Guangzhou, China.

Zhong Zhi | Getty Images

The ongoing U.S.-China trade war may be prematurely pushing the world’s second largest economy toward greater self-sufficiency, but that could prove a win for the country as it seeks to make inroads into some of the world’s biggest untapped markets.

Ben Harburg, managing partner of Beijing-based venture capital firm MSA Capital, told CNBC the “decoupling” of China from its largest trade partner has forced Chinese businesses to innovate and diversify beyond their preferred timeline. However, he added that that has also served to accelerate their already planned push into the Middle East and Africa.

“This forced self-sufficiency and forced decoupling has yielded them a really attractive market,” Harburg said of Chinese companies — most notably those in tech — at CNBC’s East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China.

“The chip industry here would have loved another five years to get its feet underneath it. Operating systems locally would have preferred more time for maturation,” he continued during a panel hosted by CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore entitled “Beyond One Belt, One Road.”

“But it’s kind of the necessity of innovation at this moment to survive. It’s pushing these companies to emerging technology markets and what they’re finding there are incredibly attractive conditions.”

Harburg highlighted particular opportunities in the e-commerce and banking sectors, within which many of the regions’ markets have a penetration rate of less than 10%.

“China (has) an e-commerce penetration rate of around 30%. In the Middle East today it’s 2%,” said Harburg. “(It’s) hugely attractive to walk millions of people online and find them a place in e-commerce that’s obviously mobile-first.

Ben Harburg, Managing Partner of MSA Capital speaks with Rafik Nayed, Group Chief Executive Officer of Al Salam Bank Bahrain and Geoff Cutmore, anchor of CNBC on Day 3 of CNBC East Tech West at LN Garden Hotel Nansha Guangzhou on November 20, 2019 in Nansha, Guangzhou, China.

Zhong Zhi | Getty Images

Rafik Nayed, CEO of Bahrain’s Al Salam Bank and fellow panelist, seconded Harburg’s remarks, noting that Chinese companies have been attracted to the region by “organic” market opportunities and “shared geopolitical structures” which unite the regions.

“Chinese technology is genuinely interested in opening up new markets of half a billion people, $1.5 trillion economy in the region,” said Nayed.

However, he noted that recent shifts in U.S. policy toward the Middle East have created a “vacuum” that has enabled China to curry favor in the region and demonstrate its business capabilities.

“In that pivot, we’ve discovered that on the tech side it’s actually a lot more advanced than what we were used to in the West,” he said.

To leverage off those opportunities, Nayed revealed at the conference that Al Salam Bank has partnered with MSA Capital to establish a $50 million fund to assist with the Middle East expansion of Chinese companies, as well as to help create new regional businesses based on “proven Chinese business models.”

When asked by Cutmore about possible security concerns surrounding Chinese technology companies’ entrance into the region, Nayed said: “I have not felt there is a lack of trust in China tech … I’m not feeling it.”

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Can A.I. ever replace human doctors? Health tech experts weigh in

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From detection to diagnosis, digitization is widely being accepted as the new approach to medicine.

Health care practitioners and patients are quickly embracing digital apps and advanced technology to get to the bottom of an ailment.

But can technology and artificial intelligence ever replace doctors?

“I don’t think at this stage, we are 100%, or even close to 100%, sure that AI can replace a historical high-touch type of doctor-patient relationship,” said Dr. Chun Yuan Chiang, a health practitioner and founder of IHDPay Group, a health care payments firm.

“In terms of diagnostic aid, it’s a different category. So, I would say at the end of Day 4, the patient wants recovery,” he told CNBC’s Nancy Hungerford at a panel discussion at East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China on Tuesday.

Changing landscape

Still, experts say AI — defined broadly as machines programmed to mimic human intelligence in areas such as problem-solving and learned behavior — has reshaped the medical landscape.

“We used to use x-rays to detect lung cancer. The problem is you can only go to stage 3 or stage 4 with x-ray,” said another member of the panel Dai Ying, chief innovation officer for GE Healthcare in China.

“Now, with CT you can see all lung modules, and with AI can tell where it is and how big it is. It’s much more advanced than before,” he said referring to computed tomography scans used to detect medical conditions.

Diagnosis of ailments and diseases is being done remotely these days. Health care providers are connected via centralized systems that can monitor patients remotely. But can AI replace a doctor’s visit for those that are remote?

“We are building telemedicine in our apps today where you can consult a doctor from the convenience of your homes, not for emergency,” said Jai Verma, CEO and board member of insurance company Cigna DIFC, and global head of government solutions at Cigna International. “I think AI, internet of things, are going to change the way we deliver health care in the future.”

Verma also believes that along with AI, blockchain technology will make it easier for heath care companies, professionals and patients to share medical records, and that many insurance companies are already looking at integrating blockchain into their modern systems.

Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, is a public ledger of every transaction that has taken place.

Fraud and costs

As health-care providers plough millions into AI-powered machines, blockchain and other expensive innovative technologies to improve the future of medicine, there are concerns that health care costs could go up.

Experts think otherwise.

“I think the technology is going to help us streamline the operations and reduce our operating costs,” said Verma, pointing out that most costs these days are associated with manual work. “AI would help you to make it automated, so the future systems are going to help reduce your costs.”

In China, one of the largest health care markets in the world, Dai said AI can play an important role in improving efficiency for the hospitals. “I don’t think AI is all the time adding to costs,” he said. “In most cases, it saves the costs.”

However, concerns about fraud and data privacy persist as medical records get exchanged electronically.

Verma, who works for insurer Cigna, noted that many people misuse health care identities. “We lost a lot of money on fraud with people using the (ID) card and accessing the care for someone else,” he said adding that dispersing of incorrect medicine is a big risk with digitization.

Chiang pointed out that efficiency can be brought about by preventing fraud or moral risks, and that his company is committed to safety and authentication. “We provide a platform that everybody can use … to make sure it’s the right doctor, real doctor, real pharmacists, real drug, real insured person etc.”

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Aston Martin debuts first-ever SUV with $189,900 DBX

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Aston Martin DBX

Source: Aston Martin

LOS ANGELES — Aston Martin is entering the SUV segment for the first time in the company’s 106-year history with the $189,900 DBX.

The famed luxury British car brand touted the unveiling of the vehicle Tuesday as a “bold new chapter and landmark moment” for the automaker.

Aston Martin DBX

Source: Aston Martin

“I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly exciting and significant DBX is for Aston Martin,” said Aston Martin President and CEO Andy Palmer. “Through its development alone, this beautiful SUV has already taken the company into new territories and in inspiring directions.”

The DBX is a crucial vehicle for Aston Martin, which has not performed as well as expected since going public on the London Stock Exchange in October 2018. The company has lost roughly three-fourths of its market value since going public.

Aston Martin DBX

Source: Aston Martin

Aston Martin is the most recent traditional luxury or premium-luxury car brand to release a crossover or SUV. Others have included Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Ferrari also has announced plans for a utility vehicle.

The DBX, according to Aston Martin, features luxury amenities buyers have come to expect from the brand as well as more capable, utilitarian features.

The DBX is powered by a four-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine found in DB11 and Vantage that features 542-horsepower and 516 ft.-lb of torque. It has a top speed of 181 mph and can achieve 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.

Aston Martin DBX

Source: Aston Martin

The vehicle features an “adaptive triple volume air suspension” with a 48-volt electric “anti-roll control system” and electronic active dampers to provide groundbreaking ability never before seen in an Aston Martin.

The inside of the vehicle includes a 10.25-inch screen in the center of the dash as well as a 12.3-inch screen in front of the driver. Apple CarPlay comes as standard, as does a 360-degree camera system and ambient lighting that offers 64 different colors in two zones.

Aston Martin DBX

Source: Aston Martin

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