depositing pictures into your bank account

Pictures of cheques, that is.

Brief blur from Gizmodo:

The bank’s VP tells The NY Times that once you hit the send button, the deposit is made just like any other check—you won’t have to mail it in later, either. As everything will be handled electronically, the bank will suggest customers simply void the check before either filing or discarding it.

Seems like a win-win idea. More convenience for customers. Lower costs for the bank.

no more cash, please

Interesting opinion piece in Wired about the disadvantages of cash – as in dollar bills and coins – and the general (albeit slow) trend of economies to move towards electronic forms of payment. It certainly makes sense, I think. Not only is cash inconvenient, but, as the article points out, it’s costly and not particularly eco-friendly:

The cost to taxpayers [in the US] in 2008 alone was $848 million, more than two-thirds of which was spent minting coins that many people regard as a nuisance. (The process also used up more than 14,823 tons of zinc, 23,879 tons of copper, and 2,514 tons of nickel.)

It strikes me as odd that e-payment devices had not gained much traction in North America. More specifically, devices that can be used in place of cash, without the hassle of credit card signatures or entering PINs for debit cards. Elsewhere in the world such devices seem to have been taken up quite rapidly. For example, in Hong Kong, the Octopus card, a contactless, stored value card originally designed as a payment mechanism for the Hong Kong subway system, has been a roaring success. Use of such cards has now expanded to stores, restaurants – even parking meters and vending machines. Similarly, I remember seeing a Coke machine in Singapore where one could buy a brink by dialing a short number and thinking, how cool is that? FTA:

“The cell phone is the best point-of-sale terminal ever,” says Mark Pickens, a microfinance analyst with the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. Mobile phone penetration is 50 percent worldwide, and mobile money programs already enable millions of people to receive money from or “flash” it to other people, banks, and merchants. An added convenience is that cell phones can easily calculate exchange rates among the myriad currencies at play in our world.

In contrast, cash replacement systems in North America don’t seem to be faring all too well. I remember a few years back when Dexit made its debut in Toronto. It was a stored value chip that you could carry on your keychain and swipe to make payments. You could reload it easily through a website. Fees were quite reasonable. And it seemed to work quite well. I was quite a fan. That is, until Dexit was restructured in 2006 and more or less all the terminals at stores disappeared.

One survey has found that there is some resistance from consumers to the idea of using mobile phones, due primarily to security and identity theft concerns. Certainly an issue, but one I would have thought would be no more risky than the use of credit cards, e-commerce sites or even venturing on-line with a PC. I know this is a bit of a simplistic comparison, and that there are significant complexities involved in electronic security, particularly when it involves money, but I would have thought that both the development of a secure platform as well as the ability to properly market such a platform to consumers would not be beyond the capabilities of companies who have, for example, developed highly secure mobile e-mail devices, or set up nationwide, sophisticated 3G cell networks, particularly given the potentially lucrative market for such a service which as yet seems to be relatively free from much in the way of serious competition – at least here in North America.

In the meantime, I guess it’s off to the ATM again.

RIAA to AllOfMP3: Show Me the Money!!

Interesting article in TechCrunch about how AllOfMP3 told the RIAA to get lost when it filed its $1,650,000,000,000 (yes, you did read that figure right – its in the trillions) claim in New York against AllOfMP3, even though AllOfMP3 operates out of Russia. From a legal perspective one would typically launch into the complexities of jurisdiction, judicial comity, real and substantial connection, forum non conveniens, blah, blah, blah.

But since this is a personal blog, let’s focus on the fun part, shall we? Let’s focus on the CASH. Woohoo! Fun with numbers. OK, so, let’s see. Accordingly to the CIA World Factbook, the current population of the world is 6,525,170,264. So, if the the damages sought by the RIAA were evenly divided amongst every man, woman and child, each one of them could go out and buy, oh, about twenty CDs, give or take. Wow. That’s a lot of CDs.

Another way to look at it? Its bigger than the GDP of every country in the world except for roughly the top ten. Yes yes, figures are few years old. Fine. Call it 15. You get the point. In any event, around the ballpark GDP for all of Russia. Yes, including the little nesting doll thingies.
From a more personal perspective, the interest on that amount, calculated at the low, low US fed rate for the shockingly painful period of time of two minutes is quite just a bit more than the combined annual incomes of me, my wife, my mom, stepmom, dad, sister, and her husband make in a year.
The point? Just that its a lot of money. A LOT of money. Not exactly googol or a googolplex

(which, as you probably know, is how Google got its name:

The Internet search engine Google was named after this number. Larry Page, one of the founders, was fascinated with mathematics and ‘Googol’, even during high school. They ended up with ‘Google’ due to a spelling mistake on a cheque that investors wrote to the founders.

(from Wikipedia)) but still a lot of money.

Update:  Further news from the INQ – apparently they calcuated damages at US$150,000 per song. Though the INQ correctly observes that AllOfMP3 hasn’t made that much money, damages could also be measured not by what an infringer has made (or an “accounting of profits”) but also the harm that they’ve cost you – so if AllOfMP3 sold each song for a penny, while the RIAA members would have otherwise sold the same song for a buck, multiply that by 150,000 downloads and you have your damages, as that is what they’ve lost out.