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MWC: Visa makes wearables payable

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Visa announced at Mobile World Congress that it is expanding its Visa Ready program to include Internet of Things companies, such as manufacturers of wearables, automobiles, appliances, public transportation services, clothing and almost any other connected device.

Emerging IoT companies will join mobile device manufacturers, including mobile point-of-sale acceptance (mPOS) providers, mobile NFC-enabled device manufacturers and other technology partners in the Visa Ready Program.

The Visa Ready Program gives companies one seamless path to integrate secure payments into their products and services. Visa Ready partners receive access to industry best practices, tools and resources, and Visa’s Digital Enablement Program (VDEP), which includes streamlined access to Visa Token Service (VTS). The Visa Token Service, an innovative security technology, allows secure mobile and digital payments anywhere there is an Internet connection.

The first IoT companies to join the Visa Ready Program will focus on payments for wearables and automobiles. Initial Visa Ready partners include Accenture, Coin, Giesecke & Devrient, Fit Pay, and Samsung, who will work with device manufacturers including Chronos and Pebble, to help embed secure payments in consumer devices and have those devices certified as Visa Ready.

Mobile technology is accelerating the pace of change in the payments industry, helping open up new possibilities for a generation of consumers who increasingly rely on connected devices to manage their money, shop, pay and get paid. The number of IoT enabled devices is expected to reach 50 billion by 2020 according to Cisco, providing a huge opportunity for secure payments to be a feature in just about any form factor.

“More and more, consumers are relying on smart appliances and connected devices to make their lives easier,” said Jim McCarthy, executive vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships at Visa Inc. “By adding payments to these devices, we are turning virtually any Internet connection into a commerce experience – making secure payments seamless, and ultimately more accessible, to merchants and consumers.”

Visa Ready Program for IoT

The Visa Ready Program is a commercial program designed to provide innovators with a path to help ensure that devices, software and solutions can initiate or accept Visa payments. It also provides a framework for collaboration with Visa, as well as guidance and best practices to access the power of the Visa network. Mobile point-of-sale acceptance (mPOS) providers, mobile NFC-enabled device manufacturers, and chip and platform providers are already playing a critical role in enabling new ways to pay and benefiting from the Visa Ready Program.

The Visa Ready Program for IoT will also enable device manufacturers to evaluate, develop and potentially adopt new payment methods that are already approved by Visa, and can help financial institutions and merchants drive growth by expanding the use and acceptance of electronic payments globally.

Visa Token Service

As part of the Visa Ready Program, all participants will use the Visa Token Service (VTS) security technology that replaces sensitive payment account information found on payment cards, such as the 16-digit account number, with a unique digital identifier that can be used to process payments without exposing actual account details.

Visa Partner Quotes: 

Visa’s partners around the world are sharing their views on Visa Ready program for IoT manufacturers:

  • “This is the type of secure, frictionless payment enabler that we are looking to include in commercial solutions as clients start experimenting with how best to take advantage of the IoT,” said Anand Swaminathan, managing director of growth & strategy, Accenture Digital.  “We lead a range of initiatives with contextual commerce capabilities that could integrate Visa Token Services. We are looking forward to seeing where else Visa Token Services will help make IoT-enabled payments easier for customers across any number of situations.”
  • “Chronos is focused on bringing the very best of today’s technology to the items you already wear; creating seamless devices by distilling functionality and technology only to those that provide meaningful interactions,” said Luke Fromowitz, co-founder and CTO, Chronos. “Chronos believes payment on the wrist is one of those interactions; there is no quicker or more convenient method for payment than tapping your Chronos powered watch at the register. Partnering with Coin and Visa has allowed us to quickly bring this technology to the Chronos platform and help push the standard of payment processes into the future.”
  • “Coin is excited to be a Visa strategic partner in bringing secure payments to IoT devices. We’re giving wearables makers like Chronos, enabled by Coin, a seamless solution to integrate payment functionality,” said Kanishk Parashar, CEO and co-founder of Coin. “Our partnership with Visa is significant because of how it enables payment functionality on everyday devices. This is a big opportunity for the rapidly growing wearables market, projected to reach $53 billion in sales by 2019.”
  • “Visa Ready is about opening secure, convenient payment capabilities to a wider range of products and enhancing the overall user experience,” said Michael Orlando, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fit Pay Inc., which has developed a payment platform services for wearable devices. “Integrating our wearable payment platform with the world’s largest card network is a critical step to bringing contactless payment capabilities to a whole new generation of IoT devices, including Pagaré – a payment smart strap we have developed for the Pebble Time.”
  • “The growing IoT market, particularly wearables, needs secure transactions and connectivity. G&D secures mobile life in the connected society,” noted Axel Deininger, senior vice president and head of the enterprise security OEM division at Giesecke & Devrient. “We are pleased to work with Visa on their new program.”
  • “We’re thrilled to be one of the first smartwatch makers in the Visa Ready Program,” said Eric Migicovsky, founder and chief executive officer of Pebble. “More than ever, today’s consumers value products that make their lives easier. Having the ability to make secure payments directly from your wrist is convenient and a great example of how a smartwatch can be helpful in your everyday life.”

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Why your first self-driving car ride will be in a robotaxi

Autonomous driving will take longer than we expect, and involve less ownership than the industry would like, writes Intel’s AMNON SHASHUA

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As we all watch automakers and autonomous tech companies team up in various alliances, it’s natural to wonder about their significance and what the future will bring. Are we realizing that autonomous driving technology and its acceptance by society could take longer than expected? Is the cost of investing in such technology proving more than any single organization can sustain? Are these alliances driven by a need for regulation that will be accepted by governments and the public or for developing standards on which manufacturers can agree?

The answers are likely a bit of each, which makes it a timely opportunity to review the big picture and share our view of where Intel and Mobileye stand in this landscape.

Three Aspects to Auto-Tech-AI

There are three aspects to automotive-technology-artificial intelligence (auto-tech-AI) that are unfolding:

  1. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)
  2. Robotaxi ride-hailing as the future of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS)
  3. Series-production passenger car autonomy

With ADAS technologies, the driver remains in control while the system intervenes when necessary to prevent accidents. This is especially important as distracted driving grows unabated. Known as Levels 0-2 as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), ADAS promises to reduce the probability of an accident to infinitesimal levels. This critical phase of auto-tech-AI is well underway, with today’s penetration around 22%, a number expected to climb sharply to 75% by 2025.1

Meanwhile, the autonomous driving aspect of auto-tech-AI is coming in two phases: robotaxi MaaS and series-production passenger car autonomy. What has changed in the mindset of many companies, including much of the auto industry, is the realization that those two phases cannot proceed in parallel.

Series-production passenger car autonomy (SAE Levels 4-5) must wait until the robotaxi industry deploys and matures. This is due to three factors: cost, regulation and geographic scale. Getting all factors optimized simultaneously has proven too difficult to achieve in a single leap, and it is why many in the industry are contemplating the best path to achieve volume production. Many industry leaders are realizing it is possible to stagger the challenges if the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) aims first at the robotaxi opportunity.

Cost: The cost of a self-driving system (SDS) with its cameras, radars, lidars and high-performance computing is in the tens of thousands of dollars and will remain so for the foreseeable future. This cost level is acceptable for a driverless ride-hailing service, but is simply too expensive for series-production passenger cars. The cost of SDS should be no more than a few thousand dollars – an order of magnitude lower than today’s costs – before such capability can find its way to series-production passenger cars.

Regulation: Regulation is an area that receives too little attention. Companies deep in the making of SDSs know that it is the stickiest issue. Beside the fact that laws for granting a license to drive are geared toward human drivers, there is the serious issue of how to balance safety and usefulness in a manner that is acceptable to society.

It will be easier to develop laws and regulations governing a fleet of robotaxis than for privately-owned vehicles. A fleet operator will receive a limited license per use case and per geographic region and will be subject to extensive reporting and back-office remote operation. In contrast, licensing such cars to private citizens will require a complete overhaul of the complex laws and regulations that currently govern vehicles and drivers.

The auto industry is gradually realising that autonomy must wait until regulation and technology reach equilibrium, and the best place to get this done is through the robotaxi phase.

Scale: The third factor, geographic scale, is mostly a challenge of creating high-definition maps with great detail and accuracy, and of keeping those maps continuously updated. The geographic scale is crucial for series-production driverless cars because they must necessarily operate “everywhere” to fulfil the promise of the self-driving revolution. Robotaxis can be confined to geofenced areas, which makes it possible to postpone the issue of scale until the maturity of the robotaxi industry.

When the factors of cost, regulation and scale are taken together, it is understandable why series-production passenger cars will not become possible until after the robotaxi phase.

As is increasingly apparent, the auto industry is gravitating towards greater emphasis on their Level 2 offerings. Enhanced ADAS – with drivers still in charge of the vehicle at all times – helps achieve many of the expected safety benefits of AVs without bumping into the regulatory, cost and scale challenges.

At the same time, automakers are solving for the regulatory, cost and scale challenges by embracing the emerging robotaxi MaaS industry. Once MaaS via robotaxi achieves traction and maturity, automakers will be ready for the next (and most transformative) phase of passenger car autonomy.

The Strategy for Autonomy

With all of this in mind, Intel and Mobileye are focused on the most efficient path to reach passenger car autonomy. It requires long-term planning, and for those who can sustain the large investments ahead, the rewards will be great. Our path forward relies on four focus areas:

  • Continue at the forefront of ADAS development. Beyond the fact that ADAS is the core of life-saving technology, it allows us to validate the technological building blocks of autonomous vehicles via tens of new production programs a year with automakers that submit our technology to the most stringent safety testing. Our ADAS programs – more than 34 million vehicles on roads today – provide the financial “fuel” to sustain autonomous development activity for the long run.
  • Design an SDS with a backbone of a camera-centric configuration. Building a robust system that can drive solely based on cameras allows us to pinpoint the critical safety segments for which we truly need redundancy from radars and lidars. This effort to avoid unnecessary over-engineering or “sensor overload” is key to keeping the cost low.
  • Build on our Road Experience Management (REM)™ crowdsourced automatic high-definition map-making to address the scale issue. Through existing contracts with automakers, we at Mobileye expect to have more than 25 million cars sending road data by 2022.
  • Tackle the regulatory issue through our Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) formal model of safe driving, which balances the usefulness and agility of the robotic driver with a safety model that complies with societal norms of careful driving.

At Intel and Mobileye, we are all-in on the global robotaxi opportunity. We are developing technology for the entire robotaxi experience – from hailing the ride on your phone, through powering the vehicle and monitoring the fleet. Our hands-on approach with as much of the process as possible enables us to maximize learnings from the robotaxi phase and be ready with the right solutions for automakers when the time is right for series-production passenger cars.

On the way, we will help our partners deliver on the life-saving safety revolution of ADAS. We are convinced this will be a powerful and historic example of the greatest value being realized on the journey.

Professor Amnon Shashua is senior vice president at Intel Corporation and president and chief executive officer of Mobileye, an Intel company.

1Wolfe Research 2019.

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Sea of Solitude represents mental health issues through gaming

It’s a game that provides a tasteful visual representation of mental health issues. BRYAN TURNER dives into the Sea of Solitude.

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Disclaimer: This review is based on four hours of gameplay.

Sea of Solitude, the latest adventure game by Jo-Mei Games and EA Games, takes a sobering look at loneliness. It represents this loneliness visually, using light and dark environmental changes, as well as creatures players must encounter. The main character, Kay, must make it through the sea without finding herself trapped in a sea of loneliness. She meets fantastical creatures along her journey, and she must help them solve their challenges while keeping herself in a sane environment.

The game is systematic in the way it represents its important aspects. It starts with a striking visual art style and a soft storyline, which gives characters a chance to absorb the beauty of the game. As one gets a hang of the controls and used to the art style, the story kicks it up a few notches to reveal the harrowing backstories of the creatures that reside in the sea Kay must travel.

In particular, it features a creature that keeps flying away from Kay. This was frustrating because the previous chapter of the game presents a backstory for the creature that was not only devastating to the main character, but also to the player. Once Kay meets this creature, players must be ready to cry. It’s a brilliantly crafted story and hats off to Jo-Mei Games for being great storytellers.

Cornelia Geppert, CEO of Jo-Mei Games, told EA: “Sea of Solitude centres on the essence of loneliness and tugs on the heartstrings of its players by mirroring their own reality. It’s by far the most artistic and personal project I’ve ever created, written during a very emotional time in my life. Designing characters based on emotions was a deeply personal achievement for our team and we’re so excited for players to soon experience Kay’s powerful story of self-discovery and healing.”

Generally, I steer clear of games that are metaphors about mental health issues because they tend to be crass in how they address mental health. Sea of Solitude is quite different because of its level of relatability. Other games about mental health tend to be about a specific disorder that not many people experience, while loneliness is something that so many of us experience. Additionally, the representation of how loneliness affects Kay in the real world is sharp but tasteful. The combination of relatability and respectful representation is what makes the game’s story so brilliant.

Another great aspect of this game is the music scoring. It uses sound and the absence of sound very carefully to invoke the right feelings expected from players. The game wouldn’t be as good with the sound off and subtitles on, so future players are recommended to turn up the volume or put on headphones.

The game is long for an indie game, at around three or four hours of gameplay until the end is reached. Several sources say there is a hidden ending, so players can look out for that in a second playthrough.

The game’s story isn’t perfect, though. The eventual sameness of creature encounters is a little disappointing. This may be down to the expectation of being extremely devastated by all the stories of the creatures, especially when one is less than devastated by the subsequent stories. One of the most affecting creature stories was also presented at the beginning of the game, which set the bar very high for the rest of the creatures.

One creature, in particular, tries very hard to have the greatest emotional impact, but this comes across as blunt and dampens the meaning of what it was supposed to represent.

While I didn’t mind sharp representation, the perception of themes like bullying, estrangement, and suicidal thoughts may vary in appropriateness from player to player. Prospective players with existing painful mental health issues should consult gameplay videos, like the one below, before purchasing the game, to gauge appropriateness.

Overall, the game is incredible at connecting with what it is to be human and what it means to be lonely. Dealing with issues as physical creatures is a great touch, as the main character tends to resolve the problems of the creature by understanding what the problems mean.

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