The information you need to start your day, from PaymentsSource and around the Web:

Australian open: Australia's real-time payments platform is live with three of the country's largest banks on board at launch, reports The Australian. Called the New Payments Platform, it will allow customers of CBA, NAB and Westpac to send funds using the recipient's mobile phone number or email address. ANZ and other Australian banks are expected to follow shortly. The banks formed NPP in 2014 to build a network that resembles a cross between the U.S. bank-led Zelle network and PayPal's Venmo. While a bank network, NPP will permit up to 280 characters to be attached to payments, giving it a social element, making NPP a fit for certain invoices or group transactions.

Getty Images

Fintech gold medal: The U.S. accounted for two thirds of the global fintech investment market in the fourth quarter and half of the market for the full year, according to KPMG. U.S. fintech investment was $5.8 billion in the fourth quarter, the third straight quarterly increase and a lion's share of the global total of $8.7 billion for the quarter. For the year, U.S. fintech investment totalled $15.2 billion out of a global sum of $31 billion. "The growing maturity of key sub-sectors within fintech, such as payments and lending, has led to larger deals and increased interest by PE forms and corporates," said Brian Hughes, national co-lead partner for the venture capital practice at KPMG, in a release.

BitATM: One area where there's not a bitcoin bubble is ATMs; there are very few bitcoin ATMs globally — but there are still pockets of demand. Coinsource, one of the largest bitcoin networks, has expanded into New England, though with a modest deployment of 10 machines in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Coinsource reports it has seen more demand in the past few months from merchants that want to deploy Coinsource ATMs in their shops. Coinsource has bitcoin ATMs deployed in 24 of the largest 25 U.S. metropolitan areas.

A new kind of outsourcing: A startup called Dbrain has developed a payment product that compensates people who are replaced by artificial intelligence programs. TechCrunch reports Dbrain will pay users of its service to program, or "teach," machine learning. Payments will come in a cryptocurrency tied to a social network that will match gig economy workers with data scientists to form data that will be fed into AI applications to improve their performance. Which, in turn, will reduce the need for humans to perform that data analysis.

From the Web

Time to Put Alibaba’s Ant Under the Microscope
The Wall Street Journal | Tue Feb 13, 2018 - Here’s some nature news: Ants can squash unicorns. At least when it comes to Ant Financial, the finance affiliate of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba. Ant, which owns China’s largest mobile-payment system, Alipay, is seeking to raise $5 billion in a new funding round that could value the company at about $100 billion. That would make it worth far more than unicorns like Uber or Airbnb. Investors should start taking a more skeptical view of such punchy estimates. Ant has long been rumored to be headed for an initial public offering, perhaps this year. Getting a narrative going now that it is worth $100 billion or more is obviously good for the company. But does it bear scrutiny?

'Crypto-cleansing:' strategies to fight digital currency money laundering and sanctions evasion
Reuters | Wed Feb 14, 2018 - Digital currency technologies generated widespread public and investor interest in 2017, with new cryptocurrency products capable of streamlining and decentralizing global commerce. Unfortunately, these technologies also create new money laundering tools that allow countries like Iran, North Korea, and Russia to evade international sanctions. This is especially true of so-called “privacy coins,” which offer personal anonymity and covert transactions to their users. Failure to restrict privacy coins through regulation of digital currency exchanges has created a financial haven for sanctioned governments, terrorists, and criminal organizations.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse Talks Bitcoin, Banks, and Payments
Fortune | Tue Feb 13, 2018 - Despite the perception that high-flying startup Ripple is either a blockchain or cryptocurrency company, CEO Brad Garlinghouse believes it’s something simpler and not merely a business trying to latch onto the latest tech buzzwords. “We are a payments company,” Garlinghouse said on stage Tuesday at a Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco. He explained that Ripple uses blockchain technology—one of the underlying accounting technologies used for Bitcoin—to record transactions between banks. And he said that his company uses its own XRP cryptocurrency as a payment method to make it easier for banks to move money internationally.

More from PaymentsSource

Automated B-to-B can drain the corporate paper swamp
CFOs can give their accounts receivable valuable time back during the workweek when switching to an automated B-to-B payments solution, writes Ed Jordan, CFO of Billtrust.

Transaction launderers love Valentine's Day
By taking advantage of the peak sales periods with higher-than-usual transaction volumes such as Valentine’s Day, criminals can use legitimate payment and shipping platforms without raising fraud alerts, writes Ron Teicher, CEO of EverCompliant.

Tipalti raises $30 million to sharpen B-to-B payments
Tipalti, whose platform automates domestic and international accounts payable, has raised $30 million in a Series C financing round led by Zeev Ventures, bringing its funding total to $50 million.

Payfone gets $23 million funding with help from Synchrony
Payfone, which provides technology to confirm customer identities, has secured $23 million in a funding round led in part by Synchrony Financial.