Will the iPhone Upgrade program damage the Apple Store’s reputation?

As soon as Apple announced their iPhone Upgrade Program I got a little nervous for our friends in Cupertino because there are few things that can sour a customer experience quicker than dealing with credit applications. I worked in a store that implemented a similar financing program a couple of years ago, and sadly it looks like things are going just about as well as I imagined:

I tried buying an iPhone 6S through Apple’s new iPhone Upgrade Program and it was a total disaster (Tech Insider)

The fundamental problem is that these financing programs are operated by an independent entity over which you have no control. It’s fine, if not a bit clunky, when everything works out in the customer’s favor, but when a bank decides to decline a line of credit they offer no explanation (which is frankly for the best) and all you can do is awkwardly suggest the embarrassed (or irate) customer contact their bank directly to sort things out. Unless you’re very lucky you’ve probably lost a sale, an hour of your time, and potentially a customer as well.

Unless you own the bank there’s really no way to ensure a positive credit application experience, which seems antithetical to the consistently upbeat, clap-for-everyone-who’s-buying-an-iPhone vibe that Apple’s worked so hard to create in its retail establishments. Trust me, I understand the allure of implementing a program like this: that’s why we tried it out at the store where I worked, but in the end we discontinued it because we couldn’t guarantee a consistently positive customer experience. We weren’t really interested in pissing customers off, and we certainly couldn’t afford to alienate them. On the one hand I’m surprised Apple is opening itself up to this liability, but I imagine that one of their long-term goals is to become an independent (international?) cellular provider and as part of this they’re seeding out and refining the foundational pieces of this solution as they go along (see: Apple SIM).

Perhaps they’ve got an ace up their sleeve, but unless Apple decides to get into the banking business itself – which might not be a bad idea, honestly – they’re going to have to work really hard to make sure that the customer service liabilities inherent in any financing program don’t tarnish the Apple Store’s reputation. Apple Store employees have been lucky up to this point – they could pass off the thorniest iPhone service and billing problems to the carriers, shielding themselves from a lot of potential customer service pain points, but now that they’re bringing it all home they’re no longer going to be able to deflect criticism as easily as before.

Why did Airbnb buy Lapka?

Unforeseen acquisition of the day: Airbnb just bought Lapka, an outfit that makes environmental sensors:

Airbnb acquires off-beat sensor startup Lapka (The Verge)

I’ve been scratching my head over this one for a little while and here’s my totally unfounded guess as to why: Airbnb must want to create their own environmental monitoring device (like the Canary) that they could then sell (or lease) to all of their hosts. If there’s a smoke detector and thermometer in the device alongside motion and moisture sensors you’d be able to keep tabs on your property while you’re away. This device could also serve as an IoT hub that turns off the lights when no-one’s at home and it could theoretically facilitate communication between guests and hosts in the event of an emergency – imagine a big red distress button somewhere on the device. These calls would reach hosts wherever they might be via a companion smartphone app and hosts could communicate back with guests who might not have telephone service in the country they’re visiting. I know from my own limited experience renting vacation properties that getting a hold of the host when there’s a power outage or some other hiccup has always been a terrific pain in the rear.

Any environmental sensor array would generate data that would be interesting not only to hosts in real time (the dishwasher sprung a leak!) but also to Airbnb in the long-term as well. Airbnb could start publishing ratings on the environmental health of cities around the world, which would be undoubtedly interesting to tourists with allergies or respiratory issues, and they could also generate pretty comprehensive energy profiles to sell back to energy companies for strategic planning purposes. 

Whatever Airbnb has planned, I certainly hope we haven’t seen the last of Lapka’s technology.

Microsoft Office on the iPad Pro might require an Office 365 subscription

Well, this certainly doesn’t bode well for enterprise iPad Pro adoption:

Want to use Office on your new iPad Pro? Then you’ll need an Office 365 subscription | Ars Technica

Currently Microsoft provides free access to basic document viewing and editing in its suite of Office apps for iOS, while they’ve reserved some powerful features like Track Changes for those who commit to an Office 365 subscription. If you’re like most people who just want to tweak a couple of slides before a meeting or check out some sales figures at the airport then chances are you’ve been able to get away without paying so far, but Ars Technica has highlighted a condition in Microsoft’s existing licenses for Android and Windows that disables these free features if you’re using a tablet with a screen larger than 10.1″. While this isn’t explicitly spelled out in the existing iOS agreement, Ars Technica suggests the EULA will probably be updated to align with this restriction when the iPad Pro is released later this year.

This is kind of disappointing because Apple really played up their relationship with Microsoft when they launched the iPad Pro, and even though an Office 365 subscription isn’t terribly expensive it’s still another upfront expense for enterprise customers added to an already substantial price tag. I imagine Microsoft’s rationale is that if you’re using a tablet over 10.1″ you’re probably not just tooling around on the sofa making a schedule for your kid’s Little League team in Excel; you’re using your tablet for business and therefore your employer should be paying for that privilege. In a perfect world you’re already using Office 365 at work so you’d be covered under your employer’s existing license: just log in with your work email and you’re ready to go without additional expense.

In a perfect world, yes – but I don’t think that’s the way it’s going to play out for most folks.

To start with, a lot of enterprise customers still aren’t running Office 365. I’ve never met a group that embodies the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality more than Corporate IT, but their reticence to embrace new technologies is informed by their overwhelming directive to keep business-critical systems up and running. This “better the devil you know” mentality is the reason why your home computer is always running a newer version of, well, everything than the one you have at work, and that’s the reason why most of corporate America still runs on surprisingly old software. Add to that inherent conservatism a not-unfounded fear of losing sensitive corporate data in “the Cloud” and you can see how foolish it is to assume the entire iPad Pro audience will be covered under an existing Office 365 license. Plus, if a company hasn’t yet made that leap, I certainly don’t see their CFOs welcoming the added expense of purchasing an additional Microsoft Office license for each iPad Pro user just so that they can use the features that Apple sold them on at the launch event. I imagine Cupertino’s response would be, “Use iWork!” but that’s missing the point – you promised people that they could use Word, PowerPoint, and Excel on their iPad Pro.

Don’t get me wrong: I fully support Microsoft’s right to get paid if people are using its software for business purposes, but I don’t think the 10.1″ rule is the best way to differentiate the casual iPad user from the hardened road warrior. Apple enthusiasts are a little bit different than their Windows and Android counterparts: for better or worse, brand loyalty will push a bunch of the Apple faithful to buy the iPad Pro just because it’s the hot new thing from the Ive factory. At the beginning, and for several months, I believe that more people will be using the iPad Pro for watching movies and checking Facebook than anything else. These early adopters are going to talk about how they can’t use Office on the iPad Pro, and that’s going to affect perception in the enterprise of the iPad Pro’s utility as a business machine.

I hope the 10.1″ rule can be relaxed for iOS or it will undercut some of the “business ready” promise of the iPad Pro. I encourage Microsoft to keep in place the same restrictions they have in place for all other iOS users and extend them to the Pro. For Redmond’s sake I hope that this has the corollary effect of accelerating Office 365 adoption in the enterprise, as iPad Pro users in key corporate leadership positions will pressure their reluctant IT departments to provide them with access to features locked behind the paywall.

Is the iPad Pro really that much more expensive than the Surface Pro 3?

Listen, it’s undeniable that once you’ve outfitted Apple’s forthcoming iPad Pro as Cupertino intends you to with the official keyboard and stylus accessories it bears more than a passing resemblance to Microsoft’s line of Surface tablets. Frankly, I’ve always had a warm place in my heart for the Surface tablet because with each iteration of the device – now in its third generation (ignoring the RT debacle) – the folks in Redmond have managed to put together a really compelling mobile business solution. They know (because it’s largely their doing) that it’s often difficult for enterprise customers to provide mobile workers access to business-critical systems on iOS and Android tablets because corporate IT is still largely the domain of Microsoft products and applications developed for their desktop operating systems. From a usability side, Microsoft wisely understood that trying to type anything longer than a Facebook post on an onscreen keyboard is a real pain so they developed a series of snazzy magnetic cases with physical keyboards and trackpads. Clever stuff, but they still haven’t really made much of an impact in the enterprise space and I’ve always thought that’s because they’re just a little bit too expensive for what they offer when you could get an Asus Transformer Book T100 that does much the same for under $300.

After the Apple event, a friend mentioned that he thought Cupertino’s biggest hurdle to overcome with their Pro tablet was that it was much more expensive than its natural analog the Surface Pro 3 and that got me thinking: is the iPad Pro really too expensive for what it is? If the Surface Pro 3 still hasn’t made a dent in the enterprise market because it’s too expensive, then what hope does the iPad Pro have?

Let’s start by looking at the data (as of 9/20/15):

Surface Pro vs iPad Pro

If you’re just looking at dollars, then yes it’s true that once you’ve bundled the tablet together with a keyboard and stylus the iPad Pro is generally at least $200 more expensive than the roughly equivalent Surface Pro 3, but I’d argue that’s not a fair comparison to make for a lot of reasons. First off, if you don’t particularly care about the stylus or the keyboard the cheapest iPad Pro is only about $100 more expensive than the cheapest Surface Pro 3 and offers a higher resolution display, even though it offers less storage space. The 128GB iPad Pro (Wi-Fi) is only about $50 more than the 128GB Surface Pro 3, and while opting for cellular capability pushes the price of Apple’s 128GB iPad Pro even higher that’s not even an option with any model of the Surface Pro 3. Add to this that we’re looking at different operating systems running on different processors with different app catalogs and it’s clear that the more you look at it there really aren’t one-to-one comparisons to make here.

Truth be told, the similarity is only skin deep and they’re very different beasts on the inside so it comes down to what you’re trying to do with them. If you’re just looking to upgrade a fleet of aging Dell Inspirons with a minimum of fuss then the Surface Pro 3 seems to make a lot of sense because all you have to do is swap out Windows laptops for Windows tablets and you can leave the rest of your hardware and software alone. I don’t think it would be a terribly cost-effective move because you can get a pretty solid business laptop from Dell these days for as little as $500, and if you’re dead set on a Windows tablet I’m sure your friendly local Dell sales rep would do their damnedest to steer you towards one of their own instead, but it’s certainly an option.

Moving to iOS is admittedly trickier because you have to be creative when you translate workflows from one operating system to another. Sometimes it’s easy – mail clients and web browsers are all pretty much the same anymore – but if you’ve got mission critical apps that were built in-house you might not be able to use them on a tablet that doesn’t support Flash or one that absolutely requires Internet Explorer (I wish this was a joke). None of these challenges is insurmountable if you do your homework, but there’s enough apprehension in gun-shy IT departments about making that transition that Apple made a point of bringing representatives from both Microsoft and Adobe onstage during their presentation to send a message that most enterprise customers should be able to hit the ground running if they invest in the iPad Pro.

So where does this leave us? Well, both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 3 are large, attractive tablets with clever keyboard accessories but that’s pretty much where the similarities end for me. On a superficial level the Surface Pro 3 is cheaper than an iPad Pro, but at the same time if you’re looking for a convertible tablet that runs Windows the market is full of alternatives that are often several hundred dollars less than what Microsoft is offering. If you’re interested in transitioning to iOS you can certainly buy a very capable iPad for much less money if you just want to surf the web and send email, but in many ways when you pair the 128GB iPad Pro (Wi-Fi & Cellular) with a keyboard and stylus you get a touchscreen laptop from Apple that’s only about $50 more than the new 256GB Macbook. The iPad Pro is really in a class by itself.

Only time and sales figures will tell who will ultimately win the battle for the enterprise tablet market, but I don’t think the iPad Pro will suffer because it’s more expensive than the Surface Pro 3. What will affect the iPad Pro much more than the price tag is whether Apple can convince the enterprise market that iOS 9 is a viable business operating system.

A handy guide to making bad mobility decisions

There’s an excellent article on Business Insider that breaks down 20 common cognitive biases into a handy chart:

20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions (Business Insider)

Take a minute to review their chart – I’m not going to repeat definitions – then come back so that we can talk about how these cognitive biases can (and will) screw up your mobility decisions.

Ready? Here we go:

  1. Anchoring Bias
    • We all retain a fondness for our firsts, and for technology people the first computer or first tablet is often as important (if not more so) than the first car or the first kiss. We get tied to platforms because of our formative experiences with technology, so odds are if you had an Android phone before an iPhone you probably have some loyalty there and vice versa. Here’s the reality though – they’re all pretty much the same when you get down to it but each excels in different scenarios and circumstances. What this means is that even if you’ve always used iPhones don’t be afraid to think about using an Android tablet if it’s the better choice for a project.
  2. Availability Heuristic
    • This sort of piggybacks on Anchoring Bias – don’t let the Android phone in your pocket convince you that it’s the best platform for the job at hand just because it’s… well… at hand. Never let a lack of familiarity with a piece of hardware or operating system convince you that it’s not as capable as another. You’re always going to privilege what you’re comfortable with, so fight this bias by getting your hands on everything out there (spend a couple of hours in  Best Buy swapping germs with strangers!) so that you know from personal experience how everything works.
  3. Bandwagon Effect
    • This one is pretty obvious: don’t be a fanboy/fangirl. You have every right to choose like one platform over another but you also need to know that, deep down, they’re all pretty much the same. Blind allegiance to a brand is incredibly damaging because, in all honesty, sometimes the competitor has a better feature. For instance, I honestly think the best presentation software out there is Apple’s Keynote – hands down – but their spreadsheet program can’t hold a candle to Microsoft’s Excel. Don’t sell a brand – sell the right solution for the problem.
  4. Blind-spot Bias
    • You’ve got prejudices about technology. Accept it.
  5. Choice-Supportive Bias
    • Back to fanboys and fangirls: there are things about every single piece of hardware and software that suck. Don’t get Stockholm Syndrome about your platform and make excuses for its bad behavior or lack of features. Recognize that sometimes your favorite platform isn’t going to be the best fit for a project. If someone wants to use mobile devices to read NFC tags in a retail environment then you won’t be able to use iPhones because Apple made a decision to severely limit that functionality. There’s a lot of Android phones with NFC readers out there, so don’t discount the NFC aspect out of hand just because you can’t use your favorite device.
  6. Clustering Illusion
    • I’m super guilty of this one. Every HP printer I’ve ever had has mangled paper so I avoid them like the plague. I have no idea if statistically they fail more often than, say, Brother printers but I’ve built this narrative about HP printers based solely on my personal experience. Maybe I just had an unlucky run of lemons, but I haven’t done the work to sort out whether I’m irrationally biased against the brand or not. Sure, this doesn’t seem like a big deal when we’re talking about printers, but you can imagine how impactful this would be if I was the one who had the power to make a decision between HP and a competitor on a contract to build out a multi-million dollar data center.
  7. Confirmation Bias
    • For me this really ties into the Clustering Illusion, because while I’ve allowed myself to vilify HP printers over a couple of bad experiences, I’ve given Apple a lot of money and loyalty over the years even though I’ve had some spectacularly bad customer service and technology experiences with their products. However, I like Apple so I give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t let the bad overwhelm the good. However, every time I hear a sad story about an HP printer I just think, “Yep, I knew it.” This is ridiculously unfair.
  8. Conservatism Bias
    • No disrespect to RIM – they had a good run – but the era of the Blackberry is over. However, that doesn’t stop you from still seeing them on the subway in the hands of Wall Street types. Their IT departments figured out many moons ago how to lock these devices down in a highly regulated environment and now they won’t let go, even though their users have come to expect devices that run iOS and Android. Certainly Blackberry provided the iron-clad security solution early on, and that was incredibly smart on their part, but both Cupertino and Mountain View have stepped up their games and now you can get hardware-level encryption on many iOS and Android devices. The DoD approved iPhones for use years ago! Blackberry isn’t the only game in town anymore, corporate IT, so it’s time to start exploring the alternatives. “Well, we’ve always done it this way” just doesn’t cut it.
  9. Information Bias
    • “How could you possibly have a problem with collecting data?” you may ask. Well, you know that saying about everyone being entitled to their own opinion? That’s nonsense when you’re trying to make smart business decisions, particularly around emerging technologies. People, to borrow a Harlan Ellison quote, are entitled to their own informed opinions so don’t let a good idea get killed by subjecting it to endless focus groups with people who don’t have a foundational understanding of what this hitherto unknown technology might be capable of. Steve Jobs was famously dismissive of consumers’ opinions because he knew there’s a real chicken-and-egg problem with asking people what they want from a technology before they even have it – build it, and they will come.
  10. Ostrich Effect
    • I see this all the time in support environments. I’ve been an IT support person, so I know that most of the time you’ve got to put up with people taking out their frustration on you when they have difficulty using technology. Unfortunately it’s all too easy to build up a really unhealthy defense mechanism of thinking that problem users are just acting out and there’s nothing wrong with the underlying technology, particularly if you’ve just rolled out something brand new. Don’t stop listening to the criticism, and don’t assume it’s (always) the user’s fault. Implementations have a way of revealing bugs and hiccups that you could have never anticipated during your pilot.
  11. Outcome Bias
    • Just because the plan to roll out iPads to LA public school kids was such an embarrassing and costly mistake doesn’t mean that iPads can’t work in education at large. I’m going to blame politicians, vendors, and mismanaged expectations before I blame the iPad itself. When you read about a failed technology pilot, try to assume that it wasn’t solely the technology’s fault. Like Google Glass…
  12. Overconfidence
    • Your bullet-proof solution is anything but that. However, if you go into a project with the expectation that certain things won’t work in the real world then you can manage the hiccups much more effectively without losing stakeholder buy-in. However, the project that “can’t fail” inevitably will – does Titanic ring a bell? – and it will never be able to recover from the damage caused when your users or implementation team lose faith. Like Google Glass…
  13. Placebo Effect
    • Does having access to your business tools on a mobile device truly make you more productive or do you just think it does because that’s the image we’re fed by the technology press and vendors? People feel good when they get new stuff, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that their elevated mood equals positive business outcomes. You should probably bring this up at least once before you make a multi-million dollar mobile technology investment. It may not be sexy, but maybe those Dell laptops are perfect for what you need right now… even if the cool kids sneer at you in Starbucks.
  14. Pro-innovation Bias
    • The worst mobility projects are the ones where someone decides to just throw new technology at a problem as if that could magically fix it. For instance, I used to work at a health center where we used an electronic health record system and a large technology company very kindly donated a dozen rugged tablet computers to us so that doctors were no longer shackled to their desks. Six months later every single one of those tablets was sitting unused in its cradle in a corner of the doctors’ offices as they continued to work on their hulking desktops. Why? The electronic health record software itself required a lot of precise clicking on small buttons and a lot of typing, which is fine with a keyboard and mouse but really inconvenient with a touchscreen. In this case, the tablets were a worse solution than the desktops. Now, if they’d shifted the software to a touch-friendly system that would have been another story…
  15. Recency
    • This one’s easy: don’t make technology decisions based on what’s sexy today. Just because a technology isn’t getting a lot of love from the tech press right now doesn’t mean they’re not the right choice for your project. This one should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people are seduced by the shiny thing.
  16. Salience
    • Learn to look past the “bells and whistles” to focus on what’s operationally important. Often the difference between a budget device and its more expensive counterpart is something that’s not really a relevant issue. Does your device for checking work email really need front-facing stereo speakers and a 4K AMOLED screen? If you’re using a handheld device to scan barcodes in a stock room then perhaps you do need a camera, but does it really matter if it has 12 megapixels or could you get away with 8? Don’t make decisions solely based on what something doesn’t have.
  17. Selective Perception
    • Again, don’t be a fanboy/fangirl.
  18. Stereotyping
    • I think where this really comes into play is when we build our solutions around user stories. We expect twenty-year-olds to interact with technology in a very different way than sixty-year-olds. Some of that has been borne out in studies (for instance, millennials have been shown to make more contactless payments than their retired counterparts) but always make sure to query the perceived wisdom. Are millennials any better with technology or do they use it more often just because it’s marketed to them so heavily? Are older users any worse with mobile technology or do they just need to be trained in a different way than folks who have grown up alongside it?
  19. Survivorship Bias
    • For every “overnight millionaire” that comes out of a Facebook or a Snapchat or a Google there’s a bunch of folks who have tried and failed to launch technologies time and time again. Spend less time looking at the projects that worked right out of the gate because you’ll learn more by studying the failures. Study the rise and fall of giants like Commodore and Atari, brands that defined the early microcomputer era that only live on as registered trademarks. No one and no project is too big to fail.
  20. Zero Risk Bias
    • The surest way to fail at mobility is to not commit to your project 100%. When you hedge your bets to compulsively cover your ass your project is doomed from the start, and then it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy that disinclines you from ever trying to be innovative again. Don’t be that person; they’re the worst.

So how do you avoid falling into these cognitive traps? Well, acceptance is the first step – understand that we come into any decision-making process with certain pre-set expectations and prejudices. I encourage you to fight the urge to “go with your feelings” when there’s data out there that you can use to check yourself against for bias. Also, make sure to recruit a diverse team of people from different backgrounds or else everyone’s going to just nod their heads and come up with a solution that suits them and nobody else.

Glassholes aside, I’m betting on Augmented Reality

It’s funny to me that when we talk about the revolution we expect to see in wearable technology in the coming years we’re still focusing on smart watches. That’s kind of missing the point when right now smart watches are pretty much just second screens for our phones, sparing us the inconvenience of dragging them out of our pockets every time we buzz or vibrate. Sure, most of them can feed information back to our phones on how many steps we’ve taken and how fast our hearts are beating but there have been plenty of inexpensive gizmos and dongles that have been able to do that for years. This is evolutionary, not revolutionary technology.

What I think is far more interesting than notifications and data capture is the promise of Augmented Reality, which essentially means overlaying the real world with virtual content that enriches the user’s ability to interact meaningfully with their environment. We’ve been able to do this for several years by leveraging live video feeds from camera-enabled mobile devices, but it’s not terribly practical to expect users to walk around with their phones or tablets held out in front of them at arm’s length. No, the real potential of augmented reality is only meaningfully unlocked when it intersects with wearables. I mean, I enjoyed making fun of Glassholes as much as anyone, but the idea behind Google Glass was great: smart glasses mean that you can benefit from augmented reality while your hands are left free to interact with your environment.

In what’s become pretty much the standard example, imagine you’re an inexperienced field technician faced with a piece of industrial equipment with which you’re unfamiliar.  Luckily, you can pull up a set of schematics on your smart glasses that lay on top of the very real equipment sitting in front of you and your hands are left free to follow the step-by-step repair instructions that pop up as you go along. If you want a slick bit of video that explains this better than I could, check out this needlessly hyperbolically-titled article:

Augmented reality expert explains how AR will help humanity (Engadget)

Yes, it’s a thinly-veiled sales pitch for another goofy set of smart glasses, but it does a great job of explaining the promise of augmented reality. So why are we all still fixating on smart watches and not glasses? It’s back to the Glassholes and the failure of the Google Glass experiment. Google made a mistake by marketing it as a fashion accessory when it looked kind of ridiculous, and by letting people think it was an actual ready-to-ship product when it was anything but. I know they tried to remind people that they were part of a beta experience by calling users Explorers, but they’d already sort of shot themselves in the foot with the Beta thing after Gmail carried that label for YEARS. There was no killer app for Glass, and I’m coining Dunford’s Law here to state that without a killer application even the very best hardware is doomed to fail (with the corollary that even terrible hardware will suceed if there’s a great application), so the conversation about Glass always ended up being about the behavior of the people who were using it. It’s a real shame, because Google’s desire to have a successful product set augmented reality back several years. The consumer market is consequently gun shy about smart glasses so everyone is focusing on smart watches – not so much because they’re the ideal wearables platform but because no one has really screwed that one up yet.

I have hope that Glass has a second chance because I’m betting on augmented reality being the feature that drives the wearables revolution. I have hope that we continue to focus on industrial applications for the technology where being fashionable isn’t terribly important. I also hope that we get some killer augmented reality apps out there soon so that we can start taking smart glasses seriously again.

How secure is your point of sale solution?

Perhaps the better question is: how insecure is your point of sale solution?

For some insight into just how thin the veneer of transaction security really is, give yourself a little scare by checking out this book review by Ben Rothke for Slava Gomzin’s Hacking Point of Sale: Payment Application Secrets, Threats, and Solutions:

Slashdot: Book Review: Hacking Point of Sale

There’s some interesting things to consider, like how relatively easy it is to crack a credit card number even with existing PCI safeguards in place:

Even with PCI, Gomzin shows that credit card numbers are rather predictable in that their number space is in truth rather small, even though they may be 15-19 digits in length. This is due to the fact that PCI allows the first 6 and last 4 digits to be exposed in plaintext, so it’s only 6 digits that need to be guessed. This enables a relatively easy brute force attack, and even easier if rainbow tables are used.

Something insightful the reviewer pulled out of Gomzin’s work is that even though we’re waiting for chip and PIN to come to our rescue and eliminate credit card fraud that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the technology offers:

An interesting point the book raises is that it has been observed there are less breaches in Europe since they use EMV (also known as chip and pin) instead of insecure magnetic-stripe cards which are used in the US. This leads to a perception that EMV is by default much stronger. But the book notes that EMV was never designed to secure the cardholder data after the point of sale. The recent breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus were such that cardholder data was pilfered after it was in the system.

Chip and PIN won’t eliminate online fraud… unless we all have to buy little reader dongles and physically dock our cards whenever we want to download an episode of Mad Men from Amazon.

It’s a good review, and it’s definitely got me interested in reading the book.

Motorola mixes some WiFi into the beacon sauce

One of the recurring complaints I’ve read about working with Bluetooth beacons is that it’s impossible to obtain precise location information.  After all, an iBeacon doesn’t report back proximity in feet or meters but instead, like in some sort of party game, lets you know whether you’re FAR, NEAR, or IMMEDIATE.  How far is FAR?  No one knows… it depends…

That does potentially present problems with using multiple beacons in a crowded retail environment like a grocery store.  You don’t want to start getting coupons pushed to your phone for items in another aisle, particularly if it’s not one you’re planning on visiting in the first place, just because the store’s app is having difficulty picking up the right signal.

In one of those “dammit, I wish I’d thought of that” moments, Motorola has produced a beacon platform called MPact that supplements Bluetooth with WiFI:

RFID Journal: Motorola Solutions’ MPact Brings Indoor Location Services to Stores

Our phones have been doing this for years now, nagging us to turn the WiFi radio on when using Google Maps to improve the accuracy of GPS.  If it works with satellites, it should work with Bluetooth, right?  It sounds great on paper, but while there are retailers testing the platform in the real world they “have declined to describe their experience, or to be named.”  All we can do it wait and see how it all plays out…

Mama told me never to trust a Bluetooth beacon!

According to Chad Hickey, vice president of sales at xAd (The Intersection of places + people!), 80% of all Bluetooth beacons out there are broadcasting inaccurate information:

Mobile Commerce Daily: 80pc of iBeacon signals are inaccurate: xAd exec

Egads!  That’s terrifying!  What kinds of lies are these beacons spewing out into the world?

Well… the article actually never clarifies that bit.  I’m not really sure what the margin for error is there either, as beacons can only broadcast three bits of information (a unique ID and two other numerical values).  Maybe Mr. Hickey meant to suggest that mobile apps aren’t properly configured to interpret what these values represent?  That’s really a very different issue –

I’m at a loss.  Unless this was all just click bait