In a few months, a new and innovative credit card will likely be tested in the United Kingdom. This “smarter” credit card will allow customers to manage all of their accounts via one card, including personal and business credit accounts, as well as bank accounts. The card is the same size as a regular credit card, but it has buttons and a screen allowing customers to choose the credit account to charge against. Once the customer has selected the account, the process for charging is exactly the same. Dynamics Inc. manufactures the cards, which contain a miniature, flexible circuit board, a battery that lasts up to three years, and a programmable magnetic stripe – very much like a miniature computer. The technology from Dynamics is currently being utilized and tested by Citibank in the United States, but Dynamics appears to be in advanced talks with other United Kingdom banks regarding trials with this technology.
Dynamics currently manufactures several different innovative types of credit cards, such as a hidden card, a multi-account card, and a dynamic card. The hidden card hides account number information until the cardholders enters a PIN to reveal the full information necessary to complete a transaction. The multi-account card is fairly straight forward in that there are two accounts on the card and the user selects which account to utilize. In addition, the dynamic card helps to prevent fraud by automatically writing a new and unique security code onto its magnetic strip for every purchase, which could cause a problem for stored purchasing options, such as iTunes or a re-occurring Netflix subscription.
The company also manufactures a redemption card that allows the user to use points or credit at the point of sale by pressing the respective button. Comperemedia observed this card back in September 2011 from Citibank, called the Citi ThankYou Preferred 2G Card with Request Rewards (Media ID: 20110920-01191). Citibank employees started testing this card back in May 2011.
One of the most interesting things regarding all of the cards is that they all can utilize the existing magnetic strip technology and infrastructure already in use in the United States. Thus, merchants would not have to upgrade or change point-of-sale machines, as they would have to do so if chip and PIN technology or EMV (Euro MC/Visa) were implemented. However, Dynamics has developed versions of the card that utilize chip and PIN technology if we ever switch to this technology in the United States.
I have not seen any of these credit cards yet and there might be some kinks to work out prior to widespread usage, such as re-occurring purchases. However, anything that increases convenience and security is a plus in my book. The multi-card is an interesting product in that it would eliminate cards (and clutter) within my wallet. Likewise, it would be interesting to see if you could put accounts from different financial institutions on the same card – that would be cool. But let’s see how the trials go first in the UK.
It took only four days for Apple to sell more than 3 million new iPads – a new record for the most popular tablet on the market. But what are the real differences between this new model (the third generation) and the second generation iPad 2? The most notable and talked about difference is the high-pixel-count retina display. The new iPad boasts 3.1 million pixels, which is four times as many pixels as the iPad 2. Aside from that, to the naked eye, the differences really are hard to find. But that’s because most of the other changes have been made to the inside such as its network speed and camera capabilities. The new iPad also works on 4G networks, which the previous model did not. This is great news if you happen to be in a 4G-supported area, but that is still not available everywhere yet. Those that are lucky enough to get 4G will experience the fastest speeds available, which some consumers report are even faster than most home Wi-Fi networks.
Of course, it’s rare for new technology to be without some downsides. New iPad owners were quick to realize a minor glitch with the magnetic polarization that affected the use of old or third-party smart covers. These covers are handy because they keep the screen protected (even more important now that the screen is the iPad’s biggest selling point). But these smart covers also turn the iPad on and off automatically when opened and closed with the use of magnets. New iPad owners discovered that this on/off functionality does not work correctly when using an old smart cover on the newest version of the iPad. When the cover is turned around to sit flush with the back of the tablet, the device turns off. Apparently, this is only a real issue with smart covers purchased in 2011. Apple seems to have fixed the problem in newer smart covers released this year. I hope that Apple will do the right thing and allow owners of the older smart covers to exchange them for new ones, instead of making them shell out another $30. Or how about just including smart covers with the iPad itself?
And could the new hotness be too hot? According to some users, another shortcoming of the newest iPad is that it operates a lot hotter than the iPad 2. According to Consumer Reports, the back of the new iPad hit temperatures as high as 116 degrees when plugged in, compared to 104 degrees for the iPad 2 in similar testing. Apple responded to recent complaints stating that “The new iPad delivers a stunning Retina display, A5X chip, support for 4G LTE plus 10 hours of battery life, all while operating well within our thermal specifications. If customers have any concerns they should contact AppleCare.” In other words, don’t worry about it.
Of course the list of other possible misses could probably go on and on depending on the type of user you ask. But despite all of those, it is clearly selling like hot cakes (pun intended).
The latest innovation in travel-related technologies comes on a device you might already own. This week, a new, free app launched called LodgeNet Mobile App, allowing guests at over 2,000 hotels to control the TVs in their rooms with their own iPhones, iPads, or Android devices. For now, the app only works in hotels with TV systems operated by LodgeNet, but that probably won’t limit it too much. LodgeNet is the leading provider of pay-per-view programming in hotels, serving 1.8 million hotel rooms within well-known chains such as Marriott, Hilton, and InterContinental. With this new app, LodgeNet is trying rejuvenate a business that has lost customers who increasingly prefer to use their mobile devices for in-room entertainment.
This may seem like a superfluous feature to a hotel stay (personally, I would rank free breakfast and use of gym facilities far above), but as I sit in my hotel room writing this blog, the USAToday article where I first learned about this app has kindly reminded me that the remote control is one of the dirtiest items in a hotel room. Hand sanitizer anyone? There is even research to back up the potential interest in this app. Data from Altman Vilandrie & Co. and Research Now states that 40% of users ages 18 to 34 prefer to control their TVs with a smartphone or tablet instead of a remote. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) has also shown his support in this venture, with a $2.3 million dollar investment in LodgeNet shares. In addition to the regular line up of free and paid TV and movie selections, the LodgeNet App promises other services too such as hotel information, local events, attractions, restaurants and even directions. Too bad I can’t try it out right now, but it’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind on my next trip.
As the holidays come to a close in 2011, it got me thinking about charitable giving. We are all familiar with donating money into a bucket outside a department store or into a collection jar on a shop counter. However, a charity in the United Kingdom called “Pennies” is taking this a step further by allowing consumers to donate electronically by rounding up their bills to the nearest whole pound amount when they paid by credit or debit card.
Customers utilizing the service can safely donate pennies to the charity chosen by the retailer participating in the program whenever they use their debit or credit card to pay for goods or services. Consumers are asked electronically if they wish to donate and then they are given the option to round up to the nearest pound, or they can donate a set amount, such as 5 pence. The other nice thing about the service is that anonymity is provided to consumers. No one, not even the checkout person, knows whether or not you donate, which puts no additional pressure on the customer. However, a consumer may be influenced whether to donate or not due to the charity chosen by the retailer. The retailer chooses which charity (or charities) the money collected via Pennies will benefit.
More and more retailers in the United Kingdom are embracing the year old service, such as Travelodge, Zizzi, The Entertainer, and the Rugby Football Union. Retailers can choose to either participate in the Pennies service online, in-store, or both online and in-store. In particular, Domino’s Pizza was one of the first businesses to sign up and the company chose the Special Olympics as the charity to receive the micro-donations from their customers who ordered and donated online.
The technology is free and ready for use by all United Kingdom retailers. All the retailer has to do is select the charity that they would like to benefit and turn the technology on. I am positive that more United Kingdom retailers will embrace the new technology in 2012, especially since it removes the donation tins on their counters that are often susceptible to theft. Even though Pennies is only a year old, it has already accepted over 1 million donations totaling over £250,000 from the public’s ‘spare change’ for more than 20 United Kingdom charities. I am positive that this charitable service will continue to grow and flourish. In particular, over 5 new retailers have agreed to partner with Pennies by early 2012. My hope is that Pennies will expand the service to the United States and we would see how well it works here.