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My Love Affair With Smart Cards

I note that since the wimps who don't like to hear the truth about their dogdgy products bleated I've been banned if I mention the word mobile.

So today I'm going to tell you about my little fling with smart cards, back about a dozen years ago.

I was an enthusiastic adopter of new technology and those little smart cards really did seem like a smart idea.

I was a little ahead of the pack. One of my clients was a property developer. Not small time. Estates, suburbs, shopping malls were his sort of thing.

At the time he had just finished a successful development and was about to build a couple of suburbs with a big shiny new shopping centre. What a great opportunity I thought. We could use all this new technology, make it really attractive to shoppers and link all the houses to the shopping centre via high speed internet. Reclaim the community in the community shopping centre and use technology to really make it efficient and profitable.

I looked into all the costs to see where we could save or provide a better option. The poor shopkeepers were really getting screwed on the telco and transaction fees. perhaps if we could aggregate them we could save them some money, we had to put all the wires in anyway when we built it, why not operate them? Those smart cards could be a smart way to reduce the merchant's credit card and banking fees. We'd create our own stored value smart cards for the shopping centre.

We came up with all sorts of stuff, like insurance. Do you know that your car is generally more likely to be stolen at a shopping centre? If we could make our customer's cars safer while they were at our shopping centre - they would represent a lower risk, and a more profitable insurance customer. The smart cards would play a part. We'd give them to our customers and provide terminals in the mall and you could even charge one up at the counter - all stores had internet, video conferencing and transactions running on tcpip.

Back to the insurance. What if we gave customers a second card when they came into the car park, but included a small adhesive so that they could glue it to the inside of their windscreen? The car would thereafter not be allowed out of the shopping centre unless the owner (or person who parked it) was in the car with their smart card too. The car would be safer - the customer potentially more loyal and the profits more large.

Once inside the shopping centre the parent could get another card from a terminal and charge it up with some funds. They could give it to the child after specifying that the money could only be spent in certain stores, or to see a certain rating show in the cinema, or even a specific menu choice from MacDonalds and certainly not on drugs or anything else.

They might place their youngest into the free creche safe in the knowledge that no-one without the card in their pocket could retreive their child and that they could go and have their hair done and use the instore vidoe phone to check in on their child or answer an enquiry from the staff.

The merchants would pay fewer transaction fees. The shoppers would be encouraged and rewarded for using the smart cards and save on fees too. It would be safer.

If the shopper lived in the developement nearby - they would get free access to the centre via the net too, so even if they were at home they could place an order and either have it delivered or pick it up.

After sticking a few smart chips to different things I obviously thought about sticking them to high value items to prevent theft, but more excitingly - customers could walk into a store and just pick up a TV and walk out. The only sound they would hear at the door would be the voice of the door dummy asking them if they wanted the TV automatically added to their house and contents policy.

If that TV shopper lived in the estate they had the free alarm system at home connected to the security team back at the shopping centre. When they arrived home with the TV the home security system would confirm the fact and thereafter not let anyone who wasn't authorised by the purchaser ie. a thief - out of the house with that item without raising the alarm. Your TV became capable of screaming out 'Help I'm being pinched!' One assumes the local security team or police would have a good chance of intercepting the felon.

And yes - we had lots of loyalty and reward schemes that we thought would fit right into that little smart card. As you bankers know - the transaction and other income streams would have dwarfed the shopping centre rent income.

What happened you  say? - I haven't heard of that shopping centre. Of course all it took was putting the black hat on and I realised that it would be the biggest failure in history - a bloody mammoth loss - because those little smart cards weren't really smart at all. They were dumb as a post. The thieves would have stolen every car and every TV and everyone's money and children and it would have been a disaster.

I didn't need to be a rocket scientist to realise that those cards would still be dumb as posts until they at least got clocks in them and some intelligent design.

So if any of you out their think I don't know all about those stupid cards and you think you're smarter than me - you're not or you would have ditched them before I did, a dozen years ago, or you have a different set of ethics.

And by the way - mobiles have clocks in them.  If you don't understand the importance of this then you have no business in the security or transaction business.

P.s. We used to have a joke about the smart card - terminal.


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