Timing is Everything

At almost the exact same time that Apple debuted its new Apple Pay service, reports have emerged that yet another retailer has likely been affected by a large scale data breach.

Although details are still emerging, office supply store Staples is investigating “a potential issue” with its customers’ credit card data. Previously, Home Depot, Target, Michael’s and Kmart, among others, were hit, with large numbers of their customers impacted.

The long-anticipated Apple Pay service is now available to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users once they download Apple’s iOS 8.1. According to Apple, Apple Pay will allow customers to use their iPhone to pay for retail transactions in a simple, secure and private manner.

To make payment, the customer will simply hold his or her iPhone near the store’s contactless reader. The customer’s ID is verified by a fingerprint reader on the iPhone. The actual credit card number is stored in a secure, dedicated chip in the phone. When a purchase is made, the Device account number—rather than the actual credit card number—and a transaction-specific dynamic security code is shared with the merchant, who never receives the actual credit card number itself. If the phone is ever lost or stolen, Find My iPhone can be used to suspend Apple Pay. Apple does not retain any records of customer transactions.

Apple Pay supports credit and debit cards from American Express, Visa and MasterCard, as well as 500 financial institutions from across the country. Nearly three dozen nationwide merchants—including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, McDonald’s, Subway and Walgreens–currently accept Apple Pay, with more scheduled to come onboard in the coming months.

Will the recent well-publicized data breaches drive customers toward Apple Pay in a quest for greater data security? It certainly seems likely, at least until retail merchants are able to figure out a better way to protect their customers’ sensitive information.

And, in case you were wondering—Staples is among those merchants accepting Apple Pay, through its mobile app

“Beacon” Mobile Marketing 

Investing your money in building retail stores is probably not viewed as the best bet these days. Shopping malls are not being built, and in fact, a large number are going out of business. Yet, that doesn’t mean that retailers and product manufactures are surrendering to online shopping. After all, 90% of retail sales are still made in brick-and-mortar retail stores. And, about two-thirds of shoppers use their mobile devices while shopping in retail stores.

Retailers are boosting sales in retail stores by tapping into mobile devices through the use of “Beacon Marketing.” Beacons use Bluetooth Low-Energy technology to send a signal to customers’ mobile devices when they come within range of a beacon. They can send information on sales or other promotional offers to customers in a brick-and-mortar retail store. A recently released study found that shoppers who received these messages were 19 times more likely to take a look at the product.

The technology has some promise, but it also has some limits. In most cases, customers must have the store-specific app open on their phone. However, if you have an iPhone with updated iOS 7 software on it, that isn’t necessary, though a customer needs to keep their Bluetooth function turned on and must allow any apps access to their location data. Read more

It’s All Downhill After Age 15….

A recent study by UK communications regulator Ofcom finds that the British demographic with the highest “Digital Quotient” score, or DQ, were those age 14 to 15. (DQ is meant to measure an end user’s confidence with and knowledge of communications technology.) After that peak, the average DQ begins a steady decline.

Young Brits aged 6 to 7 posted a higher DQ than those 45 to 49.

Additionally, only 3% of the total communications time of those aged 12 to 15 is spent making voice calls, compared to 94% which is text-based (instant messaging and social networking.) By contrast, adults spend 20% of their communications time making voice calls. Thirty-three percent of adults’ time is taken up by emailing, versus only 2% of those 12 to 15.

Not surprisingly, young adults spend almost triple the time older adults do on their smartphones each day, 3 hours and 36 minutes daily versus 1 hour 22 minutes.

Another finding of the Ofcom study was that the average person in England now spends more time daily using media or communications (8 hours, 41 minutes) than sleeping (8 hours, 21 minutes.)

The study was conducted by Ofcom of 2,000 adults and 800 children.

GoTenna Takes Text Messaging Off the Cell Network

GoTenna is nice if you want to go off the grid, or just go camping.

Using a small external antenna, GoTenna enables users to send text messages directly and securely from smartphone-to-smartphone. Currently in preorder, this product provides a way for people to communicate without using cell or data networks during a natural disaster or service disruption, or when a user is in a remote location without traditional cellular service.

From the user’s perspective, the system functions the same way as other messaging applications, such as WhatsApp or Viber. When paired with your smartphone and a friend’s device, a text message can be sent to another GoTenna device, or to all the other GoTenna users in the area. The message also can include GPS data, based on free maps available from GoTenna, to share locations. Read more

How to Text a Landline

The next time you are in Middleton, Wis., the police department wants you to text them if you have a problem. Anyone with a text message-enabled cellphone can type out nonemergency questions or complaints and send them to the same phone number that dispatchers at the station use to answer voice calls. The text is delivered to computers used by the dispatchers, who can then reply or direct assistance as needed. The Wisconsin State Journal covered the story.

How is it that residents can now send SMS messages to a phone number that is not connected to a cellphone?  Zipwhip Inc., a cloud-based text messaging service, directs text messages sent to users’ landline phone numbers to the users’ computers, tablets or smartphones

This might be a fun or convenient product for some consumers, but the technology really shines in business applications. Most companies still have landline telephone service, and their phone number might be part of their brand. Using Zipwhip combines a form of communication customers are familiar with – text messages – with phone numbers customers already use. In other words, customers can contact the businesses with text messages through a point of contact that they already associate with the business. Read more

Glued to the Small Screen

Apparently, more and more of us are watching video in the palm of our hands: according to a new report from international research firm IDG Global Solutions, 75% of online viewers surveyed reported using a smartphone to watch online videos. That’s a 22% increase from the 61% who indicated they did so in the 2012 survey.

According to IDG’s 2014 Global Mobile Survey report, mobile is also displacing more traditional media: 50% of survey respondents use a tablet to read newspapers and 40% have replaced either their laptop or desktop with a tablet device.

New technology has allowed more people to bring their work home with them: 80% of survey respondents said that they use their tablets after hours to research business products or services.

And while mobile devices continue to generate e-commerce revenues, many consumers balk at the idea of making purchases via their smartphone. The top barriers cited by survey respondents were the lack of mobile enabled websites and security concerns.

“Mobile is disruptive–affecting how we live, shop, do business and consume media,” IDG notes. “Every minute of the day we are constantly interacting with brands at a conscious and unconscious level, and this is having a profound impact on the way that businesses are now communicating with their audience.”

Report: iPhone “Kill Switch” Serves Intended Purpose

A recently released report by state attorneys general, prosecutors, police and other officials, conducted as part of an initiative known as “Secure Our Smartphones,” has concluded that Apple’s addition of a “kill switch” in its iPhone handsets has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of thefts.

The kill switch allows the phone’s owner to render the phone unusable should it be stolen, thus eliminating any possibility of resale.

Consumer Reports estimated that 3.1 million mobile devices were stolen in 2013, twice the number reported in 2012.

Dramatic declines were seen across the country—robberies of Apple products in New York City fell by 19% in the first five months of 2014 compared to the previous year. Similar decreases were reported in San Francisco and London. Over the same time period, thefts involving Samsung smartphones increased by 40%. (Samsung introduced a kill switch feature in their phones in April.)

In response to these numbers, Google and Microsoft have announced that they will incorporate a similar feature into the next version of their smartphones’ operating systems.

“The statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety.”

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