Using NFC For The First Time

NFC.pndNFC, short for Near Field Communication, is a technological set of standards that has been around for several years. Many Android phones have come equipped with NFC chips for several years. Some retailers along with fast food outlets such as McDonald’s support NFC transactions on every credit card reader.

My first NFC-enabled phone was a Galaxy S3, but I never felt compelled to even give it a try. For some reason I made the completely erroneous assumption that if I paid with my phone via NFC it would be charged to my phone bill.

Since Apple is now supporting NFC with the introduction of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus phones, I decided I would give NFC a try on my Note 3 using Google Wallet.

I already had a Google Wallet account because I have bought apps via the Google Playstore. I have also used Google Wallet to purchase hotel rooms via online booking.

To use NFC, I installed the Google Wallet app on my phone. I authorized the app to tie to my existing Google Wallet account. I authorized the Google Wallet app to use my existing debit card by setting up a pin number inside the Google Wallet app. Next I went into the phone settings to turn on the integrated NFC radio chip.

I used NFC for the first time today at a McDonald’s in Shelby, Iowa. When it came time to pay, I simply turned the phone screen on and held the phone against the top of the McDonald’s credit card reader where there’s a sort of sideways WiFi-like symbol. It’s not even necessary to start up the app – that happens completely automatically. It popped up on my phone screen asking me to input my Google Wallet pin number, and the transaction was quickly completed. The McDonald’s order-taker and his manager were astonished!

It automatically debited my bank account. My existing bank debit card remained in my wallet.

As nearly as I can tell, the Apple Pay version of NFC differs from Google Wallet and other NFC payment schemes in that the Apple Pay app only works on NFC-enabled iPhones. The iPhone 6 finger print reader substitute’s for the pin number.

It is possible to pay using Google Wallet in two basic ways – either have it pay via a selected debit or credit card, or set up a Google Wallet cash card that you can transfer money into and out of. With the Google Wallet cash card it is possible to email money to anyone with an email address, which would require them to set up a Google Wallet account in case they don’t already have one set up.

Will I use NFC again? I certainly will. I’m constantly on the road and I find myself eating at McDonald’s and other fast food outlets far more than I’d like. So long as an NFC terminal is set up and I would be paying with my bank debit card, I will try utilizing NFC instead.

Perhaps now that Apple is putting its marketing, educational, and PR muscle behind NFC it will finally have a chance to catch on. If nothing else it’s worth it just to see the amazed reactions of the store clerks!

Voxer Walkie-Talkie App

For several years, I’ve made heavy use of the Heytell walkie-talkie app on both iOS and Android devices. Heytell is functional, but it has its problems from time to time. I have continued to my eye out for worthy walkie-talkie app alternatives.

I originally tried out the Voxer app upwards of two years ago. At that time, I found that Voxer just wasn’t a worthy replacement for Heytell. For one thing, I found the Voxer audio quality to be fairly poor compared to Heytell’s audio quality. I left Voxer installed on my devices, but contined to make use of Heytell.

Recently my youngest brother contacted me via Voxer and I started noticing the app once again. I noticed that not only had the audio quality improved, but other useful features had been added and the overall performance of the app is now quite robust.

One of the key features that makes Voxer extremely useful to me is that I can easily pass through poor and changing mobile data performance areas, and Voxer is able to robustly adapt to the changing data connectivity conditions. Even in marginal connectivity areas all outgoing Voxer messages are eventually transmitted to the recipient as connectivity permits. All incoming Voxer messages likewise come in as connectivity permits.

Another really nice feature of Voxer is that it allows unlimited message length. It’s possible to talk and not arbitrarily get cut off after 20 seconds. Also, unlike Heytell there are never any “full” inboxes to contend with. It’s possible to leave plenty of messages for your recipient and they will be waiting for them on their device when they get time to listen to them. This is really a great feature if you are trying to give someone how-to instructions.

Voxer also has the ability to text chat as well as transmit photos back and forth. Additonally, Voxer puts a GPS stamp on each transmitted message, so it is possible to see a map of exactly where either you or your recipient was when a particular message was transmitted.

Walkie-talkie apps on mobile devices can be extremely useful. When you don’t have the time or the inclination to make a phone call, yet have need to communicate with someone, a walkie-talkie app is extremely useful. With both Android and iOS versions, Voxer is the best free walkie-talkie currently app available.

Can We Just Talk: Science and Communication

CommunicationThere were two article that came across my RSS reading list the past week. The first was an article about a meeting of the NSF Science & Engineering Messengers in New Mexico and the second was an article in the April 23 issue of Ars Technica How Science failed during the Gulf oil disaster . The two articles have one thing in common the inability of scientist to communicate to the general public and the especially the media.

In the case of the meeting in New Mexico the issue was how the inability of scientist to communicate scientific principals to the general public through the media, will affect the future of the US. An electorate that is more educated in the sciences is better able to make an informed decision concerning issues like water usage, the environment and infrastructure among other. In other words smarter people equal smarter policies. In 2009 the US students K–12 ranked 17th out of 34 countries in science and 25th in math. In 2008 51 percent of all patents issued by the US patent office were to non US companies. These are just a few indicators that the US maybe going in the wrong direction and that scientist are doing a poor job of communicating the importance of science to the general public.

The Ars Technica article discussed the inability of scientist to communicate during a crisis. The crisis in this case being the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientist wanted to help with the crisis, however they had trouble communicating through the media. Scientist find it difficult to explain issues in terms of black in white, to them there is always a grey area. In other words they don’t deal in 30 minute sound bites. The media on the other hand relies on the headline or the soundbite. Scientist often work slowly and deliberately while the media is looking for quick and precise answers. For example one of the unexplained events that occurred during the Deepwater Horizon spill was the plumes that flowed sideways from the source of the leaks instead of up to the surface. The media began to describe them as a river of oil, it took another month before scientist were able to explain what the plumes actually were, by that time the media had lost interest and had moved was on to the next crisis.

It is not all bad news though there is some good news coming out of both the meeting in New Mexico and the Deepwater Horizon crisis. The first is that scientist are beginning to recognize the problem. The second is that scientist are starting  to communicate with people outside the scientific community on a more regular basis.

Better communication between the scientific community and the general public through the media is important to our future. As Thomas Jefferson said “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was & never will be.”

Social Media Past and Future

We, humans are social animals, we communicate with each other by any means possible, originally it would have been by voice, or drum or smoke, what ever  worked. Let’s face it though those methods are not very reliable and the messages tended to get muddled. Then came the written language which was more reliable, but only a few could read or write so knowledge was controlled and available to only a few.

In the 20th Century most people gained at least a rudimentary level of reading and writing, which meant knowledge became available to almost everyone.   Individual’s communicated either by letter or by phone, both were for most people a one on one conversation. Mass communications, such as newspapers, magazine, TV and radio all cost a lot of money, so a very few still controlled the distribution of the news.  Then  computers and the Internet came along opening up the world of mass communication to everyone

This didn’t happen immediately, computers were too complicated and dial up Internet was too slow too make distributing media sensible for most people. Starting in the early 90’s things began to change.  First Windows 95 came along.   Then  Netscape and Internet Explorer came out opening the Internet up to the general public.  In 1997 RSS was developed  Dave Winer and others.    In 1999 Pyra launched Blogger, which began the blogging explosion.  Finally around 2004 podcasting became available, when Dave Winner with encouragement from Adam Curry created a way to enclose an audio or video file into RSS.  Around this same time, there was an explosion of the use of broadband, which made streaming video and audio more reliable and realistic.

The latest stage of this story started with the advent of Twitter, which allowed people to send out short messages to their followers around the world. At first it was used mostly by early adopters, who used it to send out messages to their friends. The true power of Twitter became clear when it was used during the attacks on Mumbai, to send the news as it was happening from people on the site. That event and the use of it in the 2008 election helped it exploded among the general populous

What is the future of the media is it real time or something else, only the future will tell. The one thing that is certain communication, both one on one or one to many is no longer dependent on having a lot of money or being a part of big media.