About Me

London, United Kingdom
I have a hungry mind and a desire to learn, share and inspire

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Digits go digital

Did you know that cattle are probably the oldest form of money, dating back to 9000 BC? We’ve moved on a bit since then and we’re now all familiar with Chip & Pin. Pin codes have been gradually introduced around the world over the past few years to varying success and now ‘pin-less’ payment cards are being launched by major banks, including Citibank’s key fob trial in New York and Barclaycard and ComCab’s payment terminals for taxis in the UK, allowing consumers to make small payments using RFID chipped credit cards (similar to the way the London Underground Oyster card scheme works).

However an even further leap is already being used by millions of people in the US and being trialled in the UK. Welcome to the world of biometric authentication or the use of fingerprints as identification and authorisation for payment. Picture it … you walk into a shop without so much as a wallet, pick up what you want and take it to the till. You place your finger on the reader where it recognises you and brings up your virtual wallet allowing you to choose which account to debit. ‘Ok’ the transaction and you’re done. It’s the next step in the evolution of payment systems and could mean there'll be no need to even carry a wallet around with you in the future.

Early research in the US looked at consumer attitudes to using this fingerprint payment for university meals and quick service restaurants and reported that consumers were surprisingly willing to use it with 52% willing to use it in universities and 42% for restaurants. Those willing to use it see it as more convenient (95%), faster (94%) and more secure (75%). Those unwilling to use it cited privacy as the biggest concern (65%). Interestingly, 84% of all responders agreed that biometrics could prevent identity fraud and 64% agreed it could protect consumer information. All in all consumer knowledge of this new technology is increasing rapidly and acceptance is following.

Piggly Wiggly is the first US retail chain to roll out biometric payment pads to some of their stores.(check out http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20050718-5110.html)

And if you’re interested in the story of how we got from cows to fingerprints then read on. Coins were first used in Lydia (now part of Turkey) around 680 BC and spread rapidly through Greece and beyond. Clearly they were easier to put in your pocket than a cow! A severe copper shortage in China in the early 9th Century led to the introduction of paper money but it didn’t take off and even despite the invention of the printing press in 1440 it was abandoned in 1455. It was only reintroduced in England c1660 in the form of goldsmith’s notes which were found to be more convenient than handling coins or bullion. Official credit emerged in 1730 but charge cards didn’t come along until 1950 when American Express and Diners Club joined forces to bring us the Diners Club. The first credit card arrived one year later. Magnetic stripes revolutionised this new form of plastic payment in 1970 and by 2003 electronic payments had overtaken cash payments.

Who knows where it will lead but if privacy and security concerns can be addressed, it could be reasonable to expect biometric payment to be widespread in the next 10 years.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

To blog or not to blog?

Well it's not a new question I know but it does still seem to be a relevant one. During a duscussion with a good friend of mine over dinner, I once again found myself wondering whether blogs were the egotistical rantings of people with too much time on their hands and an unnatural desire for fame, or a genuine means of sharing thoughts and ideas within a valuable and otherwise unreachable wider community. There are certainly arguments for both, and indeed sites showing examples of both, but I'm starting to believe that blogging may have a valid place in our social structure; a new Speaker's Corner if you like, where inner thoughts can be externalised and hung out in full view for free comment by all and any who find them. My previous dabble in this media (that can be seen in my travel blog www.GetJealous.com/teacup) certainly served to bring my friends back home an instant view of the far off world I was experiencing as well as bringing them closer to me through cheerful comments and cheers of encouragement. However, it also served a greater and deeper purpose as a personal Pepys style diarised record of my thoughts and experiences for my own repeated entertainment and perusal and perhaps even as a curious record of the social phenomenon our generation has perfected - turning every day folk into adventurers and explorers of the world.

So is the key to blogging just achieving a level of sophistication where the subject is appealing and crafted with passion but also delivered with the style relevant to the audience whose opinion and engagement you seek and who may stumble across it? The art of effective distribution and word of mouth obviously plays a part too but how much would be a topic worthy of debate another day.

All this just served to remind me that I needed a more sophisticate blog of my own blog .....