Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ever changing technology?

While doing my weekend errands this morning, I realized something: The way our society (and culture) "adapts so quickly" to new technology, some things really aren't that new. 


A little RFID beacon called Speedpass.

Speedpass and the activation sign

The little wand turned the gas station market on it's filling up head in 1997 by way of Mobil and later Exxon. The chip, when placed next to the sign at the pump, activated the user's credit card (on file) and the patron was able to fill up with the flick of a signal. Or, use it in the store part of the gas station for chips or drink (legal of age residents: smokes and booze).

It was a nifty little keychain gadget for the time. I think everyone "bought" into the hype and some people might still use it, some 18 years later. I know I had one when I started driving (showing my age here, gosh!) because my parents had a couple of the fobs. Every so often, I would stop in Mobil, wave the want in front of the sign, and fill the car up. At least when my parents got the bill, they knew what I was up to... way before cell phones and GPS devices were attached to everyone's hip.

Fast forward a decade later, smartphones are on the rise, and new companies are investing in ways to make transactions a littler smoother for "those on the go". Paypal, Square, Intuit (Quickbooks), are all little external devices that plug into the headphone jack of the phone, and with an app to install, users can accept forms of payment for a small business or any type of venture.

The only thing I can think of that is capitalizing on the RFID signal right at this moment, is Apple Pay - something that most major retailers are now switching their credit card machines over to, to be able to accept that form of payment. Install the app on the iPhone ( iPhone 6 apparently), enter credit card information(s) and you're set to use your phone as payment. Just wave the device over the machine (that most likely says "We Accept Apple Pay") and voila, items paid for.

Retailers have something that look like this for Apple Pay

One more thing I can think of, is something really brand new to the market. Rather, it's been in beta for a good year. Called Coin, it looks like a credit card, but is battery operated (thus, according to the website, is not replaceable. They estimate the card will last 2 years and once the juice goes, you need to buy another Coin). It stores credit card information in its memory, and the user can scroll through choices to decide what type of card they want to pay with - Visa, Mastercard, etc, and then use the Coin card as that card. There's a strip or a device attached to it, that lets the retailer's machine know what you're paying with. This thing is still in pre-order, it's that new. I read an article from one of the beta testers who stated that as nifty an idea this is, when they went to use it in the real world, there was a lot of confusion with cashiers with it. Because it is "midnight" in color - something that normal cards never use as a solid, a retailer can assume this is a stolen card, as there is no information anywhere on it saying what it is. Good point made by the tester, as they said it happened to them a few times... managers would come up and question the person on the validity of the purchase. The conclusion was to only use it as an emergency or really choose wisely with shops.

For those paranoid about all this change for the future, there is great news: you can still use your old fashion payment systems and if you really want to put something else under your aluminum hat, there's a section devoted to RFID blockers on Amazon.

On a plus note, home office users get the fancy gadgets with wireless frequencies - between the wireless printersmice and keyboards and everything else imaginable, you can do your printing from the toilet or closet if you feel so apt. Musicheads can use the wireless headphones or speakers while spending time on a podcast with a microphone / systems. Movie aficionados can set their computers and TVs up with Fire TVApple TVRoku or Chromecast. All made for the easy way out. But that's where society is going these days... a small contraption to plug into a bigger contraption and make our lives "easier" and we become a little lazier.

Anything I've left out, feel free to contact me (link over on the right)