Hey Zaarly community. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to catch recent headlines, here’s a roundup of some of the more exciting technology stories of the week:
According to the Los Angeles Times, Barnes and Noble will be announcing their new eReader on May 24, although the makers didn’t include what the new device would be called, cost, or look like. This will be an update to the two eReaders Barnes & Noble have already released, the Nook and the Nook color, which are competing with Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader.
Next, for all you car aficionados, Jaguar announced it is working with F1 Williams to develop C-X75, a $1.1 million dollar hybrid SUPERCAR. Imagine blowing passed a Prius in one of those babies.
According to Wired, Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar’s brand director said:
“The C-X75 received an incredible reception as a concept car. We’ve been building on that momentum and there is a clear business case for this exclusive halo model. No other vehicle will better signify Jaguar’s renewed confidence and excellence in technological innovation than this.”
Worried about the side effects of old age and the those endless days you spent tanning by the pool? Well, a new technology developed by the Fraunhofer Institute may help take some of the edge off. According to CNET, researchers in Germany have developed a sleek, flat microscope capable of imaging suspicious areas of skin for skin cancer.
The design uses multiple tiny optical sensors to scan and stitch together a bigger, clearer image of affected areas. According to Fraunhofer’s website:
Each slice is roughly 300 x 300 µm² in size and fits seamlessly alongside the neighboring slice; a computer program then assembles these to generate the overall picture. The difference between this technology and a scanner microscope: all of the image slices are recorded simultaneously.
The imaging system consists of three glass plates with the tiny lenses applied to them, both on top and beneath. These three glass plates are then stacked on top of one another. Each channel also contains two achromatic lenses, so the light passes through a total of eight lenses.
The company says it will take another couple of years before it reaches the market, and eventually, will be mass produced and available to everyone for relatively cheap.
Ever played Angry Birds? Think you’re pretty good? Well guess what, you actually suck at it compared to the robot OptoFidelity developed that can nail 3 stars on every level, no problem. Check out the video above to have your mind blown.
GrouponLive, which will launch “in time for the summer concert season,” the companies said in a statement, will utilize Groupon’s local reach to market event tickets sold through Live Nation. This sounds like a match made in heaven for these two companies. To get details, those interested can sign up for the service at grouponlive.com.
With the Zaarly launch just around the corner, it looks like 2011 is already shaping up to be a very exciting year in tech.
Yesterday I pulled into a badly needed Exxon service station in the city of Santa Monica, where two observations struck me.
First, $4.45 is an egregious price to pay for a gallon of regular grade gasoline. You loyal Zaarly followers reading this from Rock Springs, Wyoming, enjoy your national low of $3.49. Oil futures be damned!
Second, the woman at the adjacent service pump conducted her entire payment transaction without cash, debit, or credit. There was no shiny plastic to dip into a card reader. No Abe or Alexander or Andrew to part with. The woman simply waved a tiny inch-long device across a scanner and moments later started pumping. No fuss, no muss, no bother.
What Exxon refers to as its “contactless” payment system (aka Speedpass) has been around for a while, I’d just never seen it in action until yesterday. The transaction itself didn’t introduce me to any revolutionary tech advancement or even inspire me to sign up for Speedpass, instead it served simply to reinforce the undeniable and irreversible direction in which our consumer payment world is headed. I suppose it comes down to three simple words: Smaller. Faster. Easier
But how did we get here? My grandfather drove across this country from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean in a Model-T Ford way back in the 1920s and I’m fairly confident he filled his tank using good old U.S. greenbacks. The reality was there simply weren’t any payment alternatives to cash, be it for gasoline, groceries, or gumballs. So before examining the current state of consumer payment options and the innovative future ahead, lets roll back the clock…way back.
The evolution of our modern day payment options are rooted some 4,000 years ago. Historians suspect the first use of money took the form of receipts, representing documented ownership of grain storage in Ancient Egypt. Receipts gave way to the rise of coinage in the form of valuable metals (e.g. copper, silver, gold), before those clever Chinese introduced paper money, or banknotes, around 600 A.D.
Fast forward through the next 1,400 years of payment evolution and jump right to 1949 and a fateful business dinner in midtown Manhattan between Frank McNamara and Ralph Schneider. Having forgotten his wallet and cash, McNamara saw an opportunity in providing a payment alternative to cash and set about developing the first modern day credit card. A year later the Diners Club Card was born.
In 1950, Diners Club issued its first card, made of cardboard, for use in 27 restaurants in New York City. A year later, nearly 20,000 Americans carried it in their wallet.
However, until 1958, no one had been able to create a successful revolving credit instrument that could facilitate merchant transactions on a meaningful scale. All that changed when Bank of America launched the BankAmericard and American Express issued the “Don’t Leave Home Without It” card. Nearly a decade later the ancestor of MasterCard was born when a group of California banks established Master Charge to compete with BankAmericard.
By the mid 1970s, with international credit card use gaining momentum, the tag “America” was dropped from the original BankAmericard card and VISA was born. Two years later, in 1979, Master Charge followed suit and changed its name to MasterCard.
U.S. adoption of this new payment method would help define our national consumer culture identify and forever change the American consumer marketplace. Just how much has the U.S. public come to embrace and rely on that 3.3” by 2.1” rectangular piece of plastic for all its ease, speed, and instant-gratification power?
The three main pillars that enable our credit payment addiction reported the following figures on total card circulation in the U.S. (through year-end 2010, unless otherwise noted):
- American Express credit: 48.9 million (Source: AmericanExpress.com)
- MasterCard credit: 171 million (Source: MasterCard)
- MasterCard debit: 123 million (Source: MasterCard)
- Visa credit: 269 million, as of Sept. 30, 2010 (Source: Visa)
- Visa debit: 397 million, as of Sept. 30, 2010 (Source: Visa)
That’s one and a half credit cards for each man, woman, and child living in America (slightly higher – 1.7 – for debit cards)! More representative of wide spread card adoption since introduction in the 1950s are the following stats from the U.S. Census Bureau:
- Individual U.S. credit cardholders (1950) – >50,000
- Individual U.S. credit cardholders (2000) – 159,000,000
- Individual U.S. credit cardholders (2006) – 173,000,000 (+9%)
- Individual U.S. credit cardholders (2010) – 181,000,000 (+5%)
We’ve gone from zero to 60% of the American population possessing a credit card in sixty years. Now that’s product adoption!
But let’s face it, we’ve grown to enjoy the path of least resistance. We tend to adopt that which makes our lives faster, easier, less cumbersome, and less stressful. The credit card is instantaneous, simple to use, virtually weightless, and the ultimate tool for deferment of poor-decision-making guilt! Is there really any surprise behind its global growth after sixty years? Human nature says no.
Similar to the advent and adoption of the 20th century credit card, we now find ourselves witnessing the next stage in the payment evolutionary process. Receipts led to coins, coins to paper notes, and paper to credit cards. Now, enabled by revolutionary advances such as smartphone and wireless technology, the credit card will soon abdicate its throne in favor of the next payment innovation iteration.
This time however the change won’t stem from one innovative product. The innovation won’t be a tweak to the coin or banknote or credit card. Instead the future of payment will be driven by changes not to the individual players but rather the playing field itself.
Sorry cash, sorry credit. The future is about to change. Move over George and make way. Smaller, faster and easier means one thing… MOBILE.