Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Introducing Visa chip technology - confidence in a smarter world

Help protect your customers and your business

Visa chip technology is enhancing the security of card transactions. Chip cards and terminals work together to protect in-store payments. A unique one-time code is generated behind-the-scenes that is needed for the transaction to be approved - a feature that would not be replicated by counterfeit cards. It’s easy for your customers to use and for you to adopt.

Fraud protection

  • When you upgrade to chip technology, you are protected from counterfeit fraud
  • Starting October 1, 2015, businesses that don't accept Visa chip card transactions may be responsible for any resulting counterfeit fraud
  • Similarly, effective October 1, 2017, Visa transactions made at Automated Fuel Dispensers will be included in the Liability Shift Policy
  • Seamless checkout

  • Visa chip cards are easy for your customers to use
  • Once your chip card terminals are enabled, customers will insert their cards into the terminal and follow the easy on-screen prompts
  • Learn how Visa offers you choices to provide your customers with an extra layer of security without disrupting their shopping experience
  • Good for business

    • Investing in security shows your customers you care about securing their payment card information, which positively enhances your brand
    • Investing in chip technology helps pave the way for mobile and digital commerce so you can offer more services and conveniences to your customers (usa.visa.com)
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Apple Pay

A clever combination of technologies makes it faster and more secure to buy things with a wave of your phone.
When Apple Pay was announced in September, Osama Bedier was unimpressed. A longtime PayPal executive who now runs a payment startup called Poynt, Bedier had spent more than two years leading Google’s mobile wallet service, which lets people use their phones to pay for things at checkout counters. It used some of the same technologies as Apple Pay and failed to catch on widely. So despite Apple Pay’s appealing promise—safe payment with just the press of a thumb on your iPhone—there was good reason to be skeptical of its chances, too.
Yet when Apple Pay launched just a few weeks later, Bedier was a convert. Poynt makes a new kind of payment terminal—one that retailers can use to accept Apple Pay—and the advent of the service helped send the company’s orders soaring. “Now merchants have people walking in saying, ‘Why can’t I use Apple Pay?’” he says at Poynt’s Palo Alto headquarters, whose lobby displays a 100-year-old National cash register, testament to the long history of payment technologies. Originally Bedier expected Poynt to sell 20,000 payment terminals in 2015, but after the launch of Apple Pay, he scrambled to find a new manufacturer in Taiwan that could handle far greater demand. “Apple Pay will touch off a rush to mobile payment,” he says.
Momentum for mobile payment technologies was building even before Apple Pay debuted last fall. Some 17 percent of all smartphone users reported making a point-of-sale payment with their phone in 2013, up from 6 percent in 2012, according to a U.S. Federal Reserve survey. In-person mobile payments in the United States more than doubled in 2014, to $3.7 billion, according to Forrester Research. Meanwhile, as services such as Uber and stores like Starbucks allow people to pay via mobile app, transactions that once brought out the wallet are disappearing into the phone, where they are faster and should be more secure. You can use your existing credit card accounts, but you never have to pull out the physical cards. “We know after people tap their phone to pay two or three times, they don’t go back to their old behavior,” says Ed McLaughlin, MasterCard’s executive in charge of new payment technologies.
But even if Apple didn’t invent mobile payments, it has significantly enhanced them. Just as Apple made it far easier to use a computer, listen to music, and communicate on the go, Apple Pay is all about doing the same for buying goods and services, online and off. Each financial innovation from the invention of money to the credit card reduced friction in commercial exchange and accelerated the pace of commerce. Apple Pay does that too: it marks the end of scrawling a signature, producing a driver’s license, and other hassles that came with earlier forms of payment. It’s also smoother than mobile services that came before it. Apple Pay works automatically when your phone is held up to the checkout terminal, with no need to open an app as you must to use Google Wallet or PayPal. Pressing your thumb to the phone eliminates the need to use a PIN, speeding the transaction. This is true no matter whether you’re booking a room on Airbnb or buying sandwiches at Subway. It fuses the virtual and physical worlds of commerce in a way that no other payment system has done.
That doesn’t mean most of us will be ditching our wallets and waving phones in every store in 2015—far from it. The $3.7 billion worth of mobile payments made in U.S. stores last year was just a drop in the $4 trillion bucket of consumer retail spending. Beyond that, an additional $12 trillion was spent on services. Apple Pay itself faces a raft of challenges, too, and not just from rival wallets offered by Google, PayPal, retailers, and wireless carriers. Currently only people with the new iPhone 6 can use Apple Pay in stores. It’s officially available only in the United States for now, but 98 percent of U.S. stores lack the right checkout terminals to accept it. Finally, Apple Pay is far from replacing some of the things in a physical wallet—in particular, popular store rewards cards. Starbucks’s app, which is a combination store locator, rewards card, and payment engine all in one, still accounts for the majority of all mobile payments in retail stores.
Still, Apple has done a lot of things right, suggesting that Apple Pay will turn out to be a milestone. Even if it is only a moderate success for Apple, it seems certain to be a driver of mobile payments in general. None of the individual technologies in it is novel, but the extent of Apple’s control over both the software and the hardware in the iPhone—which exceeds what Google can do for Google Wallet even on Android phones—allowed it to combine those technologies into a service demonstrably easier to use than any other.
As a result, Apple is now cementing standards for the payment industry. Merchants have been debating whether bar codes or the radio technology near-field communication (NFC), for instance, should be the method that a phone uses to relay payment information when you wave it at a checkout terminal. Apple’s choice to build NFC into iPhones means many stores will feel compelled to get terminals with NFC support if they want to maximize their appeal to millions of iPhone owners.
Likewise, Apple Pay is setting the pace in payment security, outdoing credit cards with multiple layers of protection. The phone doesn’t store real card numbers, and even the merchant doesn’t see them, let alone keep them in the databases that hackers routinely plunder. Each transaction generates a unique code that can be used only once. The capper: the payment is triggered with Touch ID, which responds only to the owner’s fingerprint. This level of fraud protection is one reason banks representing 90 percent of U.S. consumer payments support Apple Pay, says Avin Arumugam, head of next-generation payment products at JP Morgan Chase.
Most of all, Apple’s timing is impeccable. Card networks have set an October 2015 deadline for merchants to upgrade to terminals that can take credit cards with embedded chips for security—after that date, the merchants who don’t upgrade will have to eat fraudulent charges. Most of those terminals they’ll need to install will have NFC built in. Although that upgrade cycle will take years to reach most stores, Apple Pay could speed it up, says Keith Rabois, a former executive at PayPal and Square and an investor in several payment startups. “Apple Pay removes most of the barriers to adoption of mobile payment,” he says.
Already, Apple Pay has taken off more quickly than Google Wallet or any other mobile payment system to date. “The time was ripe for Apple,” says Jason Buechel, chief information officer at Whole Foods Market, where almost 2 percent of store sales were coming in through Apple Pay by mid-January. McDonald’s said Apple Pay was accounting for half its mobile-phone transactions, and Walgreens’s mobile payments doubled after Apple Pay debuted. Some 60 percent of customers used it on multiple days in November, using it three times as frequently as new PayPal customers used that system in the same time period, according to a study by the brokerage firm Investment Technology Group.
Apple stands to gain big if Apple Pay’s momentum continues. Not from the 0.15 percent of each transaction that it charges card-issuing banks: those fees would bring in only $2.5 billion by 2017 even if the new system got an unexpectedly large 30 percent share of U.S. credit and debit card expenditures, according to one estimate by investor Carl Icahn. That’s a tiny fraction of Apple’s fiscal 2014 revenue of $183 billion. The bigger impact will be ensuring the iPhone’s appeal. Once you’re using Apple Pay every day, in addition to other Apple services like iCloud and iTunes, you may think thrice before switching to an Android.
For all the focus on Apple Pay in retail stores, its biggest opportunity in the next few years will probably be greasing payments for countless apps and services. When you take a ride with Uber, the payment happens almost invisibly, without friction. Rabois suggests that Apple Pay could bring that level of ease to thousands of on-demand services in transportation, food delivery, and more. Once people get used to making app payments with a touch, they’ll start expecting to do the same everywhere else they can. By Robert D. Hof (technologyreview.com)

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Electric Mood-Control Acid Test

A startup called Thync will sell electrodes that you put on your head to improve your mood. The results may vary to a surprising degree.
I’m working on a story that’s almost due. It’s going well. I’m almost finished. But then everything falls apart. I get an angry e-mail from a researcher who’s upset about another article. My stomach knots up. My heart pounds. I reply with a defensive e-mail and afterward can’t stop mentally rehashing my response. Taking deep breaths and a short walk don’t help. I can’t focus on finishing my story, and as the deadline approaches, that makes me more uptight and it gets even harder to write.
But then I apply electrodes to my head and neck, power up a small electronic device, and shock myself. Within a few minutes I calm down. I can focus on my story. I meet the deadline.
The device, which you’ll be able to buy later this year for a price that has yet to be disclosed, was developed by a team of neuroscientists and engineers at the startup Thync. It’s a small, curved piece of plastic that snaps onto electrodes and produces pulses of electricity. A wireless signal from a smartphone app controls the frequency and intensity of the pulses, gradually changing them in five- to 20-minute long programs that Thync calls vibes. The amount of electricity it produces is small—once it’s set up properly, I can barely feel it. Yet Thync says it has a marked impact on key parts of a person’s brain. An energy vibe, the company contends, can make you feel as if you’ve just had a Red Bull or similar energy drink. The calm vibe—the one I just ran—is for “whenever you’re frustrated, anxious, or stressed.”
There’s no question that I feel a significant change from the calm vibe, but could that be a placebo effect? I wonder if it works on everyone, and if it works the way Thync says it does.
To find out, I ask three researchers with expertise in neuroscience to review the results of a study Thync posted last month in the open-access online journal BioRxiv, where papers are not peer-reviewed before publication. The paper details experiments that measured the effects of Thync’s calm vibe. I also test that vibe on eight people in the office, and I use the device myself multiple times a day for several days to compare the effects in different settings.
What I find is that the company’s claims are plausible, but the device doesn’t work for everybody, and it’s far too soon to make the call on whether Thync’s hypothesis about how it works is true.
The idea of using electricity to affect the brain is hardly new. Researchers of varying character have been shocking people’s heads for hundreds of years. One scientist jokes that the high point of the hype cycle for electrical treatments was 1818, when Frankenstein was published. While technologies like electroshock therapy have inflicted severe damage on patients, doctors are favoring newer electricity-based therapies. These include a safer version of electroshock therapy called electroconvulsive therapy, deep brain stimulation, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (which induces electric current in parts of the brain using an external magnetic coil). They’re used to treat a variety of disorders, including Parkinson’s and depression..
My own informal survey suggested that the effects can vary a lot depending on the person. Two of my eight coworkers felt no calming effects at all. Four experienced mild ones; two experienced profound effects similar to what I had. One told me it’s a “letting go kind of sensation, like I could just kind of sit here.” He smiled and added, “This must be like one-15th of what people feel in opium dens. I feel super-mellow.”
The setting seems to matter. The calming vibe is most intense for me when I am slouched into my couch at home with the lights dimmed. When I use the device at work, the effect is much less pronounced.
Thync says the energy vibe—which is purportedly achieved by increasing the brain’s production of norepinephrine instead of suppressing it as with the calm vibe—can make people feel like they’ve consumed 20 ounces of Red Bull, which has caffeine, sugar, and vitamin B. But it seemed to have a small effect on me, much less obvious than the effect of the calm vibe, and Thync hasn’t published detailed data to support its contention..By Kevin Bullis (technologyreview.com)

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

California Restaurant Association total compensation legislation introduced

The California Restaurant Association announced its sponsorship Thursday of Assemblymember Daly’s AB 669, a bill that proposes to change California law to acknowledge employees’ total taxable compensation in minimum wage calculations. AB 669 will preserve the current $9 minimum wage for regularly tipped employees that earn the equivalent of $15 per hour and who are some of the most highly compensated. The January 1, 2016 increase in the minimum wage would apply to non-tipped and non-commissioned workers.
The bill is designed to limit the fiscal impact of continued minimum wage increases for highly compensated workers, while allowing employers to use limited wage dollars to benefit other non-tipped employees. The bill does state that “If, in any month, a qualifying tipped employee receives an income at a rate of less than $15 per hour, the employer shall pay the employee an amount equal to the difference.”
CRA President + CEO Jot Condie applauded the bill’s introduction and consideration of the business climate in California. “California is an increasingly challenging environment to run a successful business.” Condie continues on the risk to jobs under the current model, “The last thing California needs in the midst of a recovering economy is to cut jobs due to increased costs. California needs more jobs, not less jobs.”
The current minimum wage structure was introduced under the guise of giving raises to the “heart of the house” staff, typically cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers etc. however, these positions generally earn more than the minimum wage already, so minimum wage raises benefit already highly compensated workers. Offering an alternative wage rate for tipped workers gives restaurateurs the ability to better compensate the heart of the house workers.
“As a business owner, I strive to fairly compensate all my workers. This alternative wage rate model allows me to fairly allocate labor dollars to all my employees.” says Bruce Dean, co-founder and president of Black Bear Diner and CRA state board chairman. “The staff I have are a valuable part of my operation. I appreciate them and their hard work. The last thing I want to do is cut back on hours, or worse, jobs.”
AB 669 also addresses the current trend of restaurants moving to a service charge model, which eliminates tipping altogether. While facing unprecedented hikes in minimum wage and eroding an operator’s ability to divert those dollars to non-tipped staff, a move to a service charge model allows the operator to bring more equality within the four walls of the restaurant. 43 states currently have alternative minimum wage rates for highly compensated tipped employees. By Janna Haynes (www.calrest.org)

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