Bluebird is not the Last Word in Prepaid

Good article on Bluebird from Ben Jackson of the Mercator Advisory Group  – Mercator Perspectives

I’ll let you know what I think soon.  I opened a Bluebird account last week.


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Your Cloudy Future

It seems like you can’t turn around, at least here in the valley, without hearing about cloud computing. But what exactly is the cloud and just how cloudy is my future?  Last week I attended the 11th International Cloud Expo, and it’s impressive the depths at which our brightest minds have already taken this technology.  The intent of this post is not to discuss the technology of cloud computing.  I won’t discuss elasticity, virtualization, multitenancy, APIs and other technical aspect of cloud computing.  For those of you looking for a good introduction of the basic terms and technology I would suggest starting  with Wikipedia’s Cloud Computing page.

This article will focus on what the cloud is from a high level and why you and everyone else will be using it soon.  It will talk about how cloud computing will change your interactions with many of the devices you use daily and how it is going to fundamentally change the very nature of “computing”.

So let’s talk about what life will be like in the clouds.

I will separate this cloud article into two parts.  The first part will be a high level discussion of cloud computing.  For those techies out there who have a solid understanding of the cloud you may want to skip this part.  The second part will focus on the future possibilities of cloud computing and how it will become ubiquitous in your life.  That’s when things really get interesting!

Read the complete article – Your Cloudy Future Part I – Cloud Basics

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Mastercard testing PayPass on Smartphones

Mastercard is working with Dutch bank ING, experimenting with its PayPass system on smartphones.   The testing involves the use of QR codes as well as PIN techniques to extend the PayPass to the phone with the same level of security as the PayPass chip.

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Some votes count for a lot, some are nearly worthless

It’s Election Day and I can’t help think the way we elect the president is broken.  If you are on the left, your vote is near worthless in Kansas (or any other strongly red state).  If you are on the right your vote is nearly worthless if you live in Vermont (or any other strongly blue state).

It just seems crazy, especially in America, that some votes matter and other don’t.  Literally, the candidates couldn’t care less how you vote if you are in a non-swing state.  I don’t know about you but I would like to think my vote to count for something.  The presidential election should be on direct popular vote.

Can we agree to commit to changing this obviously flawed system before the next presidental election?

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Google Wallet going to plastic?

It’s being reported by the Gigaom that Google Wallet may be turning to a credit card like plastic card because its NFC strategy is moving too slow.  PayPal already offers a plastic card connected to their wallet.  These cards make it unnecessary for your smartphone to communicate and authenticate with the retail point of sale (R-POS) terminals.

Does this mean you won’t be using your smartphone at the R-POS?  Is this the end of NFC and contactless payments, or does this mean that wallet functionality will not be on your smartphone?  No.  In fact all wallet providers, even those that issue cards, will use your smartphone for many of the features (digital receipts, payment notifications, setup, etc.).  So why are Google, PayPal and others going old school with plastic?

They are going to plastic because changing the millions of payment terminals in the US is going to take awhile.  NFC World reports that 87% of terminals will have NFC in 2017.  2017?  I don’t think consumers want to wait 15 years for digital wallets to be useful.  Besides, it is still not clear which wallet will prevail with consumers.  Merchants will not be ready to invest until the picture is clearer.

Google and PayPal understand it’s not absolutely necessary for phones to communicate to the R-POS for their digital wallet to add value for the consumer.  In fact they are betting their “in the cloud” wallets will win even without direct phone to R-POS communication.  PayPal specifically states they are a “digital wallet” provider and not a “mobile wallet”.  In the not too distant future, digital wallets will all communicate directly with retail POS terminals, but that is not a critical feature for the success today.

Is it possible that smartphones will never become your wallet?  No.  Direct phone to R-POS communications adds value for both consumers and merchants.  Consumers like the convenience of not having to pull out their wallets plus notifications and control of digital wallets will happen via smartphone technology.

In the interim many people will use their phone as their wallet and still carry a physical wallet.  They will use their smartphones because they are convenient.  They will carry a physical wallet as backup and for items that cannot easily be digitized.  Merchants will eventually be pushing for phones to communicate directly to the R-POS because it reduces checkout times and provides line-busting possibilities.

A good read is “My Walletless Month”, where Christina Bonnington of Wired recently went a month without plastic.  Christina reported that “for a lot of activities, living walletlessly is not only doable but more convenient”.   But it should be noted she lives in San Francisco.  I’m sure it would have been a much different story had she lived in Des Moines.  Also note, for many things she was using the internet and not purchasing directly via her smartphone.

The bottom line is carrying plastic will continue for the foreseeable future but not forever.  Digital wallets will almost certainly replace physical wallets eventually.  I applaud Google’s strategy to issue plastic for the time being (even if it does seem really un-cool).

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