Westpac readies for new tech dubbed 'ambient intelligence'

The bank's new CTO wants to 'mesh' the bank's technologies together so the customer experience is seamless.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Westpac's newest CTO David Walker has predicted that as the bank continues with its digital transformation journey, the next thing the bank will look at is something he has labelled "ambient intelligence".

"We believe, I believe, it's about how do we mesh this into our everyday life, how do we become seamless, how do we become invisible," he said.

"This is going to be the next step forward from day-to-day transactions, day-to-day events. How do you become meshed so you're invisible and part of everyday life?"

Walker, who only joined Westpac three months ago, boasted how this new technology would be the next step in the bank's digital journey, which has since moved from being just a physical shopfront to mobile banking.

Rattling off the characteristics of what makes ambient intelligence, Walker said the technology would be so embedded that people's interactions become seamless, believing it will be underpinned by capabilities delivered through the Internet of Things and 5G.

See also: Why Westpac is making 'frenemies' with fintechs (TechRepublic)

He added that this next wave of technologies would also be contextually aware of its users. They will also be personalised, adaptable to change, and will anticipate a user's next move.

"It shifts the interpretation of intent from the human to the technology," he said.

But for companies like Westpac to take advantage of this so-called ambient intelligence, Walker outlined a few things that the bank would need to consider. These include designing systems that can evolve, building cloud native applications, making the most of data, practising experimentation at scale, partnering with fintechs and startups, attracting talented leaders, and understanding the boundaries of ethical IT.

Days ago, the bank's CEO Brian Hartzer revealed it spends around AU$50 million a year on cybersecurity-related upgrades.

"We have extensive teams that are dedicated to that, both in terms of monitoring activity that's going on and making improvements in our systems and processes," CEO Brian Hartzer said, facing the House Standing Committee on Economics last Friday.

"It's quite a sophisticated set of controls that we have in place and we start with lots of investment into technology to make sure that foreign actors can't get in or can't disrupt what we're doing.

"And we have another number of controls around that."

For the 2019 financial year, Westpac's statutory net profit slipped 16% to just shy of AU$6.8 billion. Operating expenses increased by AU$540 million compared to the same period a year prior.

Related Coverage

Westpac posts AU$6.8b profit as it preps new 'bank-as-a-service' platform

The red bank also announced a AU$2.5 billion capital raise.
Westpac questioned on entrepreneurship-stifling regulatory environment

CEO Brian Hartzer said small business customers constantly have to deal with the challenges of red tape and regulation in Australia.
Westpac confirms misuse of PayID lookup function

No account information or personal details have been accessed, the bank says.
Commonwealth Bank begins journey on using data 'the right way'

The aim is to restore customer trust in its brand, and remove a reliance on spreadsheets.
ING develops notary service for Corda blockchain

ING said its zero knowledge proof notary service evaluates the validity of a transaction without revealing anything else about it.

Editorial standards