10 October 2019

SOCHI, 10 October – PRIME, Alsu Garaeva, Ilya Nesterov. The FINOPOLIS held in Sochi is a kind of fashion week for Russian FinTech. Enthusiastic visitors incessantly click camera shutters and press buttons on their smart phones to be the first to capture the latest innovations and high-tech gadgets on the market. 

A biometric scanner at the entrance to the Main Media Centre, where the Forum is taking place over the next couple of days, already seems completely normal, and a robot android which greets guests with a friendly smile deserves only a nod of approval. Intuitively, you understand that all the main ‘perks’ of the Forum are ahead at the participant stands. 

You don’t have to wait long for the wow factor: with one hand, you scan the QR code to order a cappuccino the size of a small milk churn, and with the other, you put on giant VR glasses and plunge into the world of virtual shopping. Fuelling up with coffee, you set off to discover further wonders of Russian innovation. 

The stand hosted by the Russian Agricultural Bank is like a small jewellery shop: at any moment, the female participants will forget about the Forum and, in a frenzy, will begin trying on stylish rings which are kept behind glass. As it turned out, it’s not just a fashion accessory but a useful thing for everyday life. Apparently you can use rings to pay for things, just like a normal bank card. 

The rings sem to attract the attention of one of the androids on the next table. On a screen in front of Rosbank’s yellow arm manipulator, little hearts light up when a visitor appears. The message craftily says that he is the most charming guest of the forum and showers him with other compliments. 

Nearby, artificial intelligence is producing a virtual drawing in real time, where every oscillation is the result of client activity in the bank’s branches. Thanks to a colourful myriad on the screen, you can see how the bank ‘breathes’. 

Taking a break from the excessive technology is possible if you hide in a plush pressure chamber resembling a big cocoon. It’s cosy and peaceful inside – no wonder this installation is called ‘Safety’. On Thursday, this will also be the theme of tens of roundtables and sessions. 

If making the world a better place is your cup of tea, you can transfer a charitable donation at the Mir card stand with the help of a QR code. There’s a hanging improvised panel equipped with hundreds of iPhones here to help you. 

Opposite, there’s a conveniently placed smart home from Rostelecom. A home intercom system has a camera which scans the homeowner’s face and opens the door when he or she is outside. It has a switch socket which solves the eternal problem of worrying whether you’ve unplugged the iron. There’s also a system to protect the apartment from flooding, a small sofa, a huge TV with a collection of feature films, a very ordinary chandelier and a vase filled with sweets.

The smart home intercom system is already up and running in 10 Russian cities and allows the homeowner to let himself in from outside, not just by the power of facial recognition but through the use of a mobile app. It means, for example, that you can open the door to a delivery man while you’re at work. 

Moreover, you can let yourself in with the help of voice recognition on your mobile phone. Siri, in a soft voice, will say ‘open intercom’ (naturally putting the stress on the wrong syllable), and the homeowner can enter. With the help of a mobile app, you can also keep track of home décor in real time. For example, you can shout ‘bad dog!’ through the speaker when your dog starts chewing up your favourite slippers… 

The Sberbank stand is dedicated to its own ecosystem. Here, you can find out how the client voice identification system works, which analyses the owner’s speech and enables a staff member at a financial organization to confirm whether the client on the line with them is real or a fraudster. 

What’s more, you can find out how speech analysis is created and why it is necessary, all with the aid of real-life examples. For example, the system for decoding and analysing conversations between managers and clients allows companies to increase their sales and banks to step up their debt collection, which reveals that the scripts are broken. 

Here, though, you can actually test the identification system in person. It can’t be deceived, even if someone doesn’t look like their passport photo. The system matches the real photograph of the client with his or her document and determines whether it is the same person. 

Are Russians ready for the novelties being showcased? Time will tell. But for FINOPOLIS participants, sci-fi doesn’t seem quite so unbelievable. 


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