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

TIME Innovation

This Is the Antidote to the Dark Side of Technology

John Hagel argues "we have to collaborate to survive’

bif10-600-sq-info

This is the first of a 10-article series of conversations with transformational leaders who will be storytellers at the BIF10 Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI, on Sept. 17-18.

John Hagel speaks with satisfying precision. He has kind eyes and stern glasses, which together dominate the screen during a Sunday-afternoon Skype conversation.

As co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, Hagel hunts for unexploited capability on the “edges” of business and makes the case to include them on the CEO’s agenda. “The edges are most fertile areas for innovation,” he says. They are an important place to watch, because what happens at the edges transforms the core.

Hagel’s research encompasses geographic edges (overseas economies), demographic edges (younger generations entering the workforce, their unmet needs), and the edges of technological discovery. If there’s anything his work has taught him, it’s that the manual is less of an asset than the “ability to respond to unexpected events.”

Hagel believes that we are approaching fundamental revaluation of the role corporations play in our lives.

Corporations in the first half of the 20th century were built around what Hagel calls the “push” business model. The greatest asset of these vertically integrated, gargantuan structures was their knowledge stock — aggressively protected trade facts and formulas that allowed them to forecast with reasonable accuracy which direction to “push” operations.

However, this push model is failing in the face of expanding digital technology infrastructures, Hagel claims. Reinforced by long-term policy shifts toward economic liberalization, barriers to market entry have been significantly reduced on a global scale. The pace of our transactions has increased, the lifespan of knowledge stocks has decreased and competitive intensity in the US economy has doubled in the last 40 years. Hagel calls this “the dark side of technology” — a counter-narrative to the Silicon Valley script of dazzling possibility.

But Hagel sees an antidote to this volatility: openness. “People are realizing that they need to collaborate to survive,” he says, “You have to give up your secrets, your competitive advantage. It’s the only sustainable edge.” Hagel calls this new order the world of “pull,” and he describes it in his book, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion.

“Pull,” a splendidly iconoclastic antidote to traditional American corporate culture, means moving away from hub-and-spoke networks where knowledge was selfishly guarded to mesh networks that favor collaboration. Pull rejects claims to have all the right answers and instead favors asking smart questions.

“When people come at you with a façade as if everything’s under control, it does not generate trust,” Hagel says. “Admitting you don’t know something is a prerequisite to making progress.”

Rather than showing strength, influence in an uncertain economy paradoxically comes from expressing vulnerability. Yet Hagel says he had to learn the value of vulnerability. As a boy, he was often subject to his mother’s hostile temper.

“The key lesson that I took from my childhood was that my needs did not matter,” he explains. Upon his entry into management consulting, Hagel readily embraced the maxim that the client’s needs had to come first. “For the first part of my career, I was a servant of others,” he says. “The idea that others could help me was completely foreign to me.”

Hagel attributes the shift in his thinking to a talk he gave at the Collaborative Innovation Summit hosted annually by the nonprofit Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence, RI.

“Saul Kaplan invited me to be a storyteller at BIF6, and I’ve talked a lot and in various conferences and settings, and that seemed perfectly fine,” Hagel says. “But then he said, ‘We want you to talk about a personal experience and what you’ve learned from it,’ — and that was very scary.”

“Stories are not my thing. I am a person of reason and analysis,” began Hagel’s BIF6 story. But sure enough, he shared two tales of formative childhood experiences in a passionate expression of his business philosophy that later became the story of that year’s Summit. “It was the first time I ever got on stage and talked about myself,” he reflected in hindsight.

The experience was an incredible catalyst. “It really unleashed a tremendous sense of potential and possibility, that by sharing my personal experiences, by talking about things I didn’t know, and I connected with people in a way that I would never have had I just given my standard speech. I can’t wait to be a storyteller at BIF10 in September.”

“The key lesson I got from the BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit,” Hagel says, “is that innovation is ultimately not about ideas, it is about personal connection.”

The BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit combines 30 brilliant storytellers with more than 400 innovation junkies in a two-day storytelling jam, featuring tales of personal discovery and transformation that spark real connection and “random collisions of unusual suspects.”

Saul Kaplan is the author of The Business Model Innovation Factory. He is the founder and chief catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence and blogs regularly at It’s Saul Connected. Follow him on Twitter at @skap5. Nicha Ratana is a senior pursuing a degree in English Nonfiction Writing at Brown University and an intern at The Business Innovation Factory. Follow her on Twitter at @nicharatana.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 11

1. Hashtag Activism Aftermath: Three months on, to bring back the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, outside groups must work past news fatigue and push Nigeria to make a deal

By Naunihal Singh in the New Yorker

2. The US shouldn’t let nuclear security cooperation with Russia become a casualty of the conflict over Ukraine.

By Nickolas Roth and Robert Gard in the National Interest

3. Proponents and users of big data have a big responsibility.

By Om Malik at om.co

4. To save the NSA, we need to bring American spying in from the cold.

By Carla Ann Robbins in Bloomberg Businessweek

5. From battling wildfires to delivering humanitarian aid, the good done by drones can temper — but not erase — the ugly reality of remote-controlled warfare.

By Medea Benjamin in TIME

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

TIME Innovation

Elon Musk Pledges $1M to Tesla Museum

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk Visits Beijing
CEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk attends the television show "Dialogue" taping at Zhongshan Park in Beijing on April 21, 2014. ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

The billionaire CEO of Tesla Motors received a tweet asking for a donation. He responded, big time.

The man who tweeted Elon Musk to request a donation for the Tesla Museum got his answer Thursday. The Tesla Science Center, which cartoonist Matthew Inman of the Oatmeal.com has led a multimillion-dollar fundraising drive for, revealed that the billionaire founder of Tesla Motors had called Inman personally to pledge $1 million to the museum and build a Tesla “supercharger” station in the parking lot.

Back in 2012, Inman had raised nearly $1.4 million on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to repurpose the building in Shoreham, New York, which was the site of inventor Nikola Tesla’s last laboratory. But the Center still needed $8 million to refurbish the building, where in 1901 Tesla had begun a project to send messages and electric power around the world by wireless transmission — a project that he never completed.

So Inman tweeted a direct appeal to Musk, who replied encouragingly:

The appeal worked. What’s more, Musk’s donation comes just in time for the inventor’s birthday, who would have turned 158 years old today.

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