Monday, October 01, 2007

Whose face is on a one dollar cell phone?

There is a major credit card company running a series of ads on TV that depicts a crowded fast food line coming to a screeching halt because a single customer has the audacity to use cash to pay for the “Biggie Burger and drink.” Is cash a thing of the past? Well for many of us it may be.

Been to the local Biggs store recently? As part of an upgrade to the computerized check out lanes they have added fingerprint recognition to the credit card terminal. While at this writing they have not activated the system, it is only one of several technologies that are being used to speed up transactions and tighten security. A quick swipe of your finger on the reader and you are identified, your purchase is authorized and the money is transferred from your bank account to the store’s. Since your finger print is unique to you, security is enhanced. This technology, once the province of a James Bond movie, is becoming common place in daily life. There are other similar technologies that scan your retina to accomplish secure identification.

Some of you may already have a “speed pass” that can be used at several major gas retailers. This plastic card can be waived in front of the pump instead of using a credit card or cash. While we don’t have many toll roads or bridges in the area, many in other parts of the country use a system that scans cars and trucks as they move through the toll gate without stopping.

The lowly cell phone is another example. Today’s phone has already morphed in to a camera, MP3 player, GPS receiver, web browser and email terminal. Tests in the US and abroad make your personal cell phone a sort of “magic wand” of purchasing activity large and small. Rather than putting coins in a parking meter or soft drink machine, you just wave your cell phone in front of the coin slot, enter a personal code and voila, the drink appears or the minutes are added to the
meter and your banking account is debited for the amount. There no coins, bills, credit or debit cards.

The same cell phone may give you access to the ATM, the gas pump, the highway toll both and of course the local supermarket.

It seems to me ironic that our Federal government is concentrating on making our paper money more difficult to forge at a time when fewer and fewer of us even use the stuff. But what do I know?

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