Clay Maynard: Smartphones are transforming human behavior
Smartphones are as much a part of our attire nowadays as wristwatches used to be. Ask a younger person the time, and they are likely to check their smartphone. They might even ask, What country or time zone would you like? Smartphones are fast becoming a part of everything we do and could soon be the only thing we need to take with us.
They would not only be our phone, camera, GPS, map/directions guide, remote-controller, portable TV, MP3 player, Quick Response (QR) code reader, home and business security monitor, children monitor, car monitor and email-Internet connection to the world, but they would also be our ID, credit card, ATM, public transit pass, entertainment ticket, airline ticket, and personal companion like Apple's Siri. The list is endless.
Face-to-face is giving way to cyberspace. There can be no doubt that, in our lifetimes, we are witnessing the greatest transformation of human behavior in the history of the world — and this is only the beginning.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales once said, "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge." Smartphones are like pocket-sized supercomputers giving us that access instantly and on a scale never before imagined.
The two major smartphone technologies are iOS (such as Apple's iPhone) and Android (like Samsung's Galaxy SIII). Microsoft's Windows smartphones are the newest kids on the block, and they are off to a good start.
You may remember the long lines of people anxiously waiting to buy the first release of Apple's iPhone 5. A television ad depicted two guys bumping the backs of their Android-type smartphones together to transfer a music playlist. One young lady in the iPhone waiting-line spoke up, saying, "When do we get that (bump, bump) thing?" That thing is called Near Field Communication (NFC).
NFC enables smartphones to be used as digital wallets for transferring money, photos, ID info, personal data, etc. The newer Android and Windows 8 operating systems support NFC, but Apple does not. The iPhone 5S expected out later this year could support NFC using Apple's proposed Passbook, but Apple is not saying.
Dave Kaminsky, an analyst of emerging technologies with the Mercator Advisory Group in Maynard, Mass., is an expert on NFC and believes that digital wallets will be the normal means of payment by 2017.
Kaminsky explained that NFC uses a radio frequency ID (RFID) chip to communicate with other NFC-RFID-equipped devices that must be within three centimeters of each other. He emphasized that NFC transactions offer much better security than using credit cards.
A magnetic card has a fixed 16-digit number, but NFC with Isis software uses dynamic data that regenerates its numbers on every transaction, thereby making digital theft almost impossible. Also, unlike a lost wallet, a lost smartphone could be tracked and remotely disabled.
Isis is the name of a joint venture between AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile that makes it possible for users of NFC-equipped smartphones using the Isis Mobile Wallet application to electronically duplicate the financial functions of the traditional wallet. See www .youtube.com/watch?v=eOMqvGVKjmM.
On the business or merchant side, Isis has partnered with companies like VeriFone (www.veri fone.com) and others to introduce point-of-sale NFC equipment. The Isis mobile payment system works with Visa, MasterCard, Discover Card, American Express, Chase, Capital One and Barclaycard.
NFC technology is being introduced around the world and could be used to facilitate a common form of cashless payment, thereby eliminating the need to carry money from different countries.
Digital wallets are already popular in Japan where they are known as osaifu-keitai or "wallet mobiles." See www.nttdocomo .com/services/osaifu/index.html. Also, last month VeriFone announced its alliance with China Mobile and the Bank of China to deploy NFC payment and mobile marketing in China. Although NFC technology is just now being introduced worldwide, it will likely become a part of every lifestyle someday.
The technology age is moving faster than anyone could ever have imagined, and whether we like it or not, we are becoming smartphones.
Clay Maynard of Yuba City is a technology consultant and past chairman of the San Francisco Bay Area Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Vehicular Technology. Email him at ConsumerTechTalk@comcast.net.