Arya Stark would love the iPhone X Face ID technology.

This is not a review of the new iPhone X, for that you will have zillions of websites to inform you, the sames I read myself yesterday. One thing has been surprisingly new in the most recent Apple flagship phone and it’s not the full screen, it’s not the “ears”, it’s not the battery life, nor the wireless charger. It’s Face ID.

It’s funny to see when a company tries to innovate changing things in a quite established phone design (mainly Nokia, in the pre-iPhone era, was bold enough to design crazy phones), there are a bunch of collateral effects that sometimes create something unique. Since Samsung launched the S6 Edge, the race to have the best screen surface vs. size ratio had begun. But that meant a lot for the iPhone, since the home button was an iconic element since the very beginning. Taking the home button out from the front would mean you have to put it elsewhere (like on the back as many LGs do since 3 or 4 years), or innovate and take it completely out, like they finally did. The original functionality of the home button could be easily replaced by other gestures on the screen, but in the last years that button was also holding the fingerprint reader, which has evolved in terms of security to a point where Apple based the payment authentication on it.

By sacrificing the fingerprint reader, Apple creates (yet) a new playground for phones

The only possible, obvious identification mechanism left was to use the front camera. Samsung explored the iris scan (a historical way to authenticate people in security areas) but it seems it’s not 100% secure and a flat picture could be easily faked. So Apple had to “innovate”, using another well known technology, 3D mapping via infrared grid.

It’s well known because the first version of Microsoft Kinect had it, although it has been replaced with newer and more accurate technologies.

Future app developers could integrate 3D mapping via the infrared grid for a myriad of usages, not only identification or payments

And this has a lot of implications:

  • If it doesn’t exist (didn’t have much time to investigate) a new picture format will be created, not only containing the image itself, but the 3D correspondence for each dot.
  • Panoramic pictures will also be possible, scanning an entire object or person and building the complete 3D model.
  • With this new 3D layer AIs could be exponentially better in identifying objects. This has a lot of implications in object recognition, such in shopping environments.
  • 3D people models could be an input for online fashion retailers. no need to give your pants size anymore.
  • 3D models could be sent to 3D printers directly and Amazon Prints will send you the piece.
  • Hackers will steal 3D models of faces, and use it for malicious purposes
  • Arya Stark wouldn’t need to kill people to have their faces, with the iPhone X, she would be able to print them at home.

Finally Apple innovates again, even if it’s with existing technology. Double merit.

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In store shopper activation. Bye bye QR Codes, welcome NFC!

I recently started a series of posts called “Beware of Hype” trying to reflect about what happened with some technology or marketing hypes and why they finally didn’t work as expected. I can confess it now: I planned my next Beware of Hype post to be about NFC. This was previous to the iPhone 6 launch rumors, since Apple was constantly refusing to add it to their devices. I was (very) wrong, and obviously there was a reason for it. Now, NFC is the de facto standard for mobile payments.

Although payments will receive the most significant boost thanks to Apple endorsement, NFC can do much more than that. The good thing for Apple”being late” is that there are endless applications to this short range communications technology, and very low cost NFC tags.

NFC is based on RFID, that was supposed to be the future for logistics and supply chain management, but also, for Marketing. In 2004 (yes, that’s 10 years ago, the iPhone wasn’t even launched), Gillete massively deployed RFID tags in their products, not only for out store usage, but also for in store traceability in partnership with Walmart. That has been criticized as the greatest privacy breach ever, and the project was put aside. Today we’re giving our position to many of the apps in our smartphone both GPS for outdoors and iBeacon for indoor without being much problem, I guess privacy concept has a little bit changed since then. The RFID/NFC technology has evolved so much, that tags can be obtained for very few cents the piece.

In fact, some companies such as Samsung with the Tectiles, already provide programmable NFC stickers, as the simplest way to make the phone do things, like set up the alarm, launch an application or join a wifi network, but more interestingly perform actions such as like a facebook page, check in with foursquare or open a web page, which has a huge potential for in store activation and interaction. But wait, there is already something that does more or less that… QR codes.

QR codes are massively used in Marketing as a shortcut between the real world and the digital world through your smartphone. You can read some serious dos and don’ts with QRs codes here. The truth is, between you and me, reading a QR code is not the easiest thing in the world for everybody. My 65 years old mom, owning an Android 4.4.4 smartphone, doesn’t know how to. She doesn’t know she has to download an application for reading the codes, she doesn’t know the products she’s buying in the supermarket are plenty of these codes because nobody told her. The adoption of the QR technology is being quite organic, kids know what they are, some parents and most of grand parents don’t. But tapping something with the phone is sooo much easier… you don’t need an app, just keep the NFC activated and your ready to receive contextual information about a product you want to discover, it’s perfect for smart shopping.

Yes, I know QR codes are much cheaper to print, maybe NFC tags are not for every product, but at their current cost, they are very affordable and give plenty of communication opportunities. Of course iBeacons are there for push communications, but you need an app installed in the phone. They complement themselves, NFC will be used for pull communications when the consumer wants to get something from the product, proactively, and easily.

Imagine clothes with the tag that take you to the online store, or just like the product in Facebook so your friends can see it online. What about cosmetics? having a tag with a detailed product description, skin compatibility tests, cross recommendations… I can’t even foresee all the possible applications, but it seems Apple does, as they’re filing some patents regarding these exciting possibilities. Definitely, after all, NFC will not be a hype, and I will have to find another one for my next post.

Pictures from Apple.com and Samsung.com

Originally published here


It’s not (only) about the Hardware. Why Apple waited so long for NFC.

Yesterday Apple announced their new, long awaited, expected and desired, device: the Apple Watch (replacing the “i” by an apple, might be a new naming line?) with the new , in both sizes. Really nothing new, or very few, based on the information leaked in the previous months. Maybe the Digital Crown was unexpected. You like it or not, we’ll see sales evolution when it comes to market, much later than other equivalent devices such as the Motorola 360 or the LG G Watch.

From the Apple watch just one remark, it will only work with the iphone 5 and above, which is a limitation but quite normal knowing how closed the Apple ecosystem is. And this ecosystem will be open to app developers that will take the device much beyond the initial usages. The watch is fully packed with all kind of sensors, great for many many cool options from sports to sleeping improvement.

The feature everybody was expecting and finally came, both in the Apple Watch and the iPhone 6 is NFC. Since it has been a standard within Android devices since a couple of years now, Apple seemed to be reluctant to implement this short range communication technology, to the point, seeing how Bluetooth LE and the iBeacon technology has evolved this year, to wonder if they were going to adopt it ever.

The truth is, as they did with the MP3 and the iPod, with the Phone and the iPhone, Apple waited to launch some hardware piece, even apparently mature, until the software ecosystem was ready. And they did it again.

Not only they are including NFC, they are including Apple Pay, a big big competition to PayPal and Amazon Payments, thanks toan agreement with the three major credit card issuers. And that’s where the next big thing is. Banks and credit card companies have invested millions deploying both cards and PoS terminals working with contactless (NFC) technology, and in that arena Apple needed to play a role. Now they’re there, but with their own rules, as always.

 

This article has originally been posted here.