TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 24

1. Ten years after the 9/11 commission urged Congress to simplify oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, the problem is worse. Today, the department deals with 92 Congressional committees. That must change.

By the Sunnylands-Aspen Task Force

2. Operation Lifeline Syria: The International Community must tackle this humanitarian crisis head-on. Here’s how to do it.

By Madeleine Albright and David Miliband in Foreign Policy

3. When enforcement of the Clean Water Act becomes a political football, our communities and the nation’s economy will suffer.

By Naveena Sadasivam in Pro Publica

4. It’s easier to move people than jobs: How better public transport can solve the jobs crisis.

By Danielle Kurtzleben in Vox

5. Drones will change – and monitor – the way food gets from farm to table.

By Mary Beth Albright in National Geographic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 23

1. The border isn’t the problem: A detailed, map-powered breakdown of the real story behind this immigration crisis.

By Zack Stanton in the Wilson Quarterly

2. With campaign finance rules in chaos, major corporations are setting a new standard with voluntary disclosures of political donations.

By Bruce F. Freed and Karl J. Sandstrom in U.S. News and World Report

3. It’s not about political correctness. Racist sports team names harm Native American youth.

By Erik Stegman and Victoria Phillips at the Center for American Progress

4. A simple move – replacing individual state bar exams with the Uniform Bar Exam – can bring much-needed reform to the legal profession.

By Baron YoungSmith in Slate

5. Computer modeling and big data are new weapons against disease-carrying insects.

By John Upton in Pacific Standard

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 22

1. Caught between a war and life in a state of endless siege, Palestinians see no choice but to support Hamas.

By Noam Sheizaf in +972

2. Unfortunately, a deal with Russia is the only way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.

By Iain Martin in the Telegraph

3. To beat the fundraising obsession that paralyzes Washington, disclose donation data less often.

By Lindsay Mark Lewis at the Atlantic

4. The research is clear: Our best strategy to fight the spread of HIV is decriminalizing sex work.

By Caelainn Hogan in the Washington Post

5. More than a sideline, corruption is a system for powerful actors to capture revenue and overshadow the operation of a state. And it is a major threat to international security.

By Sarah Chayes at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 21

1. Israel and the world must focus on not ‘going all the way’ in Gaza.

By Charles Ogletree in the Washington Post

3. Two Haitan policymakers debate what’s more important for their country: justice or tourism.

By Samiha Shafy in Spiegel

4. We can address one factor driving America’s border crisis: American guns fueling gang wars in Central America.

By Alex MacGillis in the New Republic

5. In the future, art will be for everyone, and the internet will be the delivery system.

By Lisa Wade in Sociological Images

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 18

1. After the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, the world must push a political solution to the Ukraine crisis or risk it becoming much more dangerous.

By Dmitri Trenin at the Carnegie Moscow Center

2. We can’t disown the children at our border.

By Jim Gaines at the Reuters Great Debate

3. We should let failing arts organizations die.

By Devon Smith in Medium

4. Amazon Web Services deal with the CIA could revolutionize intelligence work.

By Frank Konkel in Government Executive

5. A Cold War lesson: Challenging the status quo in Iran as we did decades ago with the USSR.

By Nicholas Burns in the Boston Globe

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 17

1. Israel and Hamas have not only made do with each other’s existence, they have tried to figure out how to derive the maximum benefit from one another.

By Aaron David Miller in Foreign Policy

2. The current immigration crisis — and larger questions about reform — mean immigration is far from a political slam-dunk for the left.

By Nathan Pippinger in Democracy

3. What if Egypt isn’t ready for democracy?

By Sarah Eltantawi in the Immanent Frame

4. Affirmative Action should be adapted to accommodate structural racism and America’s modern segregation.

By Sheryll Cashin in the Root

5. Marriage isn’t the answer to poverty and focusing on single moms obscures the real problems.

By Carter Price in the New Republic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 16

1. To upgrade the reliability of the wisdom of crowds, look instead to the wisdom of the confident.

By the Editors of the MIT Technology Review

2. Marketing departments for technology firms should take the radical step of functioning like an outside agency, complete with their own engineers.

By First Round Review

3. According to Peter Orszag, the radical financial relief from the falling cost of health care in America means “everything you think you know about the nation’s long-term fiscal gap would be wrong.”

By Adrianna McIntyre in Vox

4. Robots writing dead simple news stories means journalists can use human intelligence on real, robust news that are worth reading.

By Kevin Roose in New York magazine

5. Is the bottomless thirst for Wall Street profits driving the soaring cost of higher education?

By Lisa Wade in Sociological Images

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 15

1. With the $3 billion annual cost of fighting piracy at sea, we could invest in economic and infrastructure development on the Somali coast to take down piracy’s root causes.

By Anja Shortland and Federico Varese in The Conversation

2. Simply by letting students understand their financial aid picture earlier, we can improve college access and post-secondary options for low-income students.

By Fawn Johnson in National Journal

3. The story of ISIS, which has seemed to be all about religion and military developments, is actually mostly about politics: access to government revenue and services, a say in decision-making, and a modicum of social justice.

By Jessica Tuchman Mathews in the New York Review of Books

4. Giving a supercomputer “life after retirement” means investing in the future of technology in Africa.

By Jorge Salazar at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, UT-Austin

5. Europe has a role – and a responsibility – to stay engaged as the U.S. ‘rebalances’ toward China.

By Joseph S. Nye in Project Syndicate

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Apple

This Could Be Apple’s Biggest Innovation Since the iPhone

The new Apple Inc. Maps app icon is seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5 in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
Bloomberg/Getty Images

This spring, Apple CEO Tim Cook offered a vision of the company’s future – to anyone reading between the lines. “We have almost 800 million iTunes accounts and the majority of those have credit cards behind them,” Cook said in a quarterly conference call with analysts. “We already have people using Touch ID [Apple’s fingerprint reader] to buy things across our store, so it’s an area of interest to us.”

That “it” refers to virtual wallets – smartphone apps meant to replace the need for credit cards and cash. Virtual wallets have been a drop-dead obvious idea since at least 2011, when Google launched its much heralded Google Wallet for Android, i.e. “tomorrow’s billfold.” Three years – and nearly half a billion dollars in investment later – the Google Wallet has been largely ignored by consumers. Meanwhile, competitors like Square and its Square Wallet app have also officially thrown in the towel.

Getting people to ditch old-fashioned cash and credit cards, it turns out, is harder that it seems. But as Apple gears up for what seems a certain foray into the virtual wallet space, consumers have good reason to believe that the days of carrying around bulging leather billfolds may – finally – be numbered.

A wallet wasteland

Among the biggest challenges facing virtual wallets: finding a use case. “[At] the end of the day, point-of-sale payments aren’t really broken,” writes Gigaom’s Kevin Fitchard. “Swiping a plastic card works just as well as it always has.” For most consumers, in other words, paying via credit card remains a fairly frictionless transaction. Virtual wallets do afford certain advantages – seamless record keeping, for starters – but there hasn’t been a pressing need for adoption.

Add to this the hurdles – both real and perceived – of switching to a mobile wallet. The tap-and-go technology behind mobile wallets generally relies on near field communication, or NFC. Concerns continue to linger about whether hackers can exploit NFC transmissions – which can have a range of up to a meter or more – to eavesdrop on transactions.

Meanwhile, Apple’s existing phones aren’t equipped with NFC chips at all, leaving hundreds of millions of iPhone users – an absolutely critical virtual wallet demographic – out of luck. At the same time, retailers have been reluctant to embrace NFC terminals, which often require costly new hardware. Instead, they’ve opted for simpler software-centric solutions, like apps that transform smartphones or tablets (equipped with tiny card readers) into a credit card terminal at minimal cost.

But the biggest obstacle for Google Wallet and its virtual brethren has been phone carriers themselves. Virtual wallets generally store users’ credit card information locally, on a special chip within phones (home of the so-called “secure element”). And individual phone carriers control access to this chip.

Rather than play along with Google Wallet, many carriers have blocked access and started competing offerings themselves (like Isis, the virtual wallet from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon). The result: fragmentation of the nascent wallet market and huge headaches for Google. “With Google Wallet, we had one point of failure,” explained Jonathan Wall, the project’s founding engineer, “the carriers [used] the necessity of hardware to really block the product.”

A virtual tipping point

But hardware may not be an issue much longer. The latest Android phones (as well as Blackberry devices) have found a way to store credit card information securely in the cloud, rather than on a chip inside phones. Known as host card emulation or HCE, this technology enables virtual wallets to make an end-run around carriers, cutting them out of the equation entirely. “With HCE, Google has opened the floodgates for NFC payments and created a level playing field for all mobile wallet providers,” explains mobile commerce consultant Sai Casula. Unencumbered by carriers and third parties, virtual wallet makers are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

At the same time, consumer attitudes are slowly changing. Starbucks’ pay-and-go loyalty app has over 10 million users, demonstrating people’s willingness to embrace smartphones for mobile payments, if only for their morning lattes. Around the world, tap-and-go credit cards have also proliferated, with MasterCard, Visa and American Express all offering competing versions, which has helped allay consumer concerns over the security and privacy of “contactless transactions.” Meanwhile, tap-and-go NFC terminals are becoming increasingly common in stores, not to mention in taxis, in subway stations and in other venues where speedy payment is a priority.

But the real tipping point for virtual wallets may well come with the iPhone 6, whose release is rumored for later this fall. Consensus among industry analysts is that the new phone will have an NFC chip, paving the way for tap-and-go payments. (Even if that doesn’t come to fruition, the company has already rolled out related technology, iBeacon Bluetooth, in its iOS 7 operating system).

Indeed, Apple seems to have all its ducks in a row for a headlong plunge into the virtual wallet space: hundreds of millions of users’ credit card numbers on file; a device people carry with them at all times to hold these numbers; and even a fingerprint system to authenticate transactions (ensuring that stolen iPhones, for instance, can’t be used for payments). “Apple is absolutely the sleeping giant in the payments world,” explains Forrester Research’s Denee Carrington. “They have the capability; they just haven’t tied it all together.”

Just what an Apple wallet might look like remains conjecture, though many analysts suspect it would fit nicely within the iPhone’s existing Passbook app (used for storing things like boarding passes, movie tickets and gift cards). What is clear is that Apple has already made overtures to industry that it’s keen to handle payments for physical goods on its devices and CEO Cook is hardly button-lipped on the subject: “[You] still have a wallet in your back pocket and I do, too,” he said to analysts, “which probably means it hasn’t been figured out just yet.” Here’s betting that Cook and the best minds at Apple have set their sights on figuring out the virtual wallet riddle sooner rather than later.

Michael Gokturk (@MichaelGokturk) writes on mobile payments and is founder of Payfirma, a cloud-based platform that lets retailers process payments made online, in-store and via mobile device.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 14

1. Living in diverse neighborhoods — especially for older Americans — can help stave off depression.

By Tom Jacobs in Pacific Standard

2. Children learn with their whole bodies. It’s time educators and the education technology field start teaching that way.

By Annie Murphy Paul in Slate

3. To reignite the march of racial progress in America, we need a new Freedom Summer.

By the editors of the Nation

4. The worst job in America: Why being president has become nearly impossible.

By Ron Brownstein in National Journal

5. To keep kids active and engaged in sports, fun — not the thrill of victory — is the crucial ingredient.

By Hoai-Tran Bui in USA Today

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