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iPhone App for Reading Currency Denominations

April 21, 2011

An iPhone app that recognizes US currency denominations and announces the results on the iPhone speaker. Yes this is the latest from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and is aimed at helping the visually impaired better recognize note denominations. Euros and notes from many countries have differing sizes making it easier to differentiate the denominations. The US has been under pressure to find ways to differentiate it’s notes and are seeking ways to solve it.

While the app isn’t the end-all, it’s interesting to see how technology can be employed to solve a problem such as reading notes printed all the way back to 1996. If you have an iPhone or iPAD its a fun and free way to experiment with the technology. Give it a shot, it’s available in the Apple App Store. Read the BEP press release here

~Bob Walters



April 6, 2011

Social networking is an idea that few people living in the modern world are unfamiliar with.  Facebook, Linkedin, and Myspace, to name a few, enjoy hundreds of millions of members who use their sites to keep in touch with friends, exchange ideas, and gather information.  To be sure, the widespread use of the internet has created new and exciting opportunities for sharing in a global community.  However, despite its recent spike in popularity and general awareness, “social newtoworking” is anything but a new concept.  In fact, loss prevention professionals around the world have been dealing with the darker side of social networking for decades or longer.

In much the same way online social networkers share information about consumer products, movies, and music, criminals and thieves share information about vulnerable retailers and security conditions in an underground social network.  While they don’t employ the use of modern technology or operate in the public purview, they are effective none the less.  When one criminal successfully breaches a retailer’s security and escapes with cash in hand, it is safe to assume that other potential offenders within their social network will learn of their approach to the robbery.

In a recent discussion with a law enforcement professional, I was told that in the first seven days after a robbery it is estimated that 20-25 individuals will learn how the crime was committed and the value of the cash stolen from the retailer.  So how do retailers protect themselves against nefarious social networking?  Simple: send a message.  Instead of broadcasting vulnerability, retailers must send a message of strength and security.  Using the latest in intelligent safe technology and surveillance equipment, the same social network that broadcasts opportunities to potential offenders will transmit a warning.  Avoid retailers with secure-steel safes and corresponding camera equipment.  Don’t pick a fight with an opponent that is prepared.

Many retailers today are wisely using online social networks to reach new customers and inform existing clients.  However, few consider what message they are sending to criminal networks.  The question remains: if you are a retailer, what message are you sending to underground social networks?  A warning or an invitation?


~Jeff Hauser

In an emergency, it’s always cash

February 2, 2011
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Ever notice, when we are worried about the unknown, there’s a run on cash and ATMs? We all know that when the chips are down, cash is the one commodity we know will work. Big snowstorms, Y2K, civil unrest, whatever the threat, people around the world get back into cash so they know they can travel, eat and survive. No one brings extra credit or debit cards or checks when they head to the bunker, it’s cash.

There’s something about cash that makes you feel secure, mobile, and empowered. Thats why I know cash will never go away.
~Bob Walters

The New Electronic Currency?

January 6, 2011

No I’m not talking about a debit card, I am referring to a fascinating article on Fast Company that hypothesizes the technology is here to embed thin-film electronics on currency. Benefits would include greatly reduced counterfeiting and an ability to embed circuits on a bill for simple computations such as encryption. How fun.

Currency has been around since 2000 BC, and the beauty of it is currency evolves to meet the times – it has to be easy to carry, simple to exchange and universally acceptable. Even though card payment mechanisms have their benefits, the ease of cold hard cash is tough to replace. You can read the whole article here:
~Bob Walters

Cash Around the World

December 16, 2010

I had the opportunity to visit some Asian countries recently, and of course needed to have some cash. Initially I thought I’ll just use my credit card everywhere, thats the way to go. It is the way for most things – hotel bill, fancy restaurants, higher end purchases. But I discovered, like here in the U.S., you need some “walkin’ around money”, cash of course! Short taxi rides, a coffee or soda while out, a quick lunch.

Cash usage around the world seems to be the same everywhere – larger purchases are handled with alternative payment mechanisms – credit/debit card, check, but the under $20 transaction is still cash. Thats where the volume is. The world economies consist of an awful lot of coffees and sodas and lunches and socks. Outdoor markets. Cash is faster and flows with less friction.

It’s also interesting to note that many countries are perfectly comfortable with rounding cash up and down, unlike the U.S. where we seem to hate pennies but everyone feels compelled to wait for their one penny in change, or the cashier demanding that last cent. The “penny cup” is our way to balance the transaction so we still see the penny, even if we leave it behind. Other places aren’t so particular about those pennies. when something is 3.98 they take the 4.00 and expect you to walk away. If it’s 4.02 they take the 4.00 and get on to the next customer. Maybe we should try that in the U.S. Abe Lincoln was a nice enough guy, but maybe it’s time to give him a break from posing for all those pennies.

~Bob Walters

Tis the Season to be Cautious…

December 7, 2010

In the few short weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans will spend billions of dollars shopping for holiday bargains.  While increasing numbers of shoppers choose to take their business to the worldwide web, old-fashioned brick and mortar retail stores are predicted to hit record sales figures this holiday season.  However, with increased foot traffic and cash on hand, sales figures aren’t the only numbers on the rise.  In an economic climate characterized by unemployment and financial uncertainty, the risk of fraud or robbery increases for retailers across the United States.

Keeping employees and customers safe is a primary concern for retailers during the busy holiday season.  Proper cash-handling procedures, secure storage, and discrete cash pick-ups and deliveries are just a few practical strategies for mitigating risk.  By limiting cash exposure within the store, retailers restrict the number of opportunities for robbery or internal fraud.  Furthermore, by analyzing sales data, traffic patterns, and cash volumes, retailers are able to adjust staffing and security measures in accordance with customer behavior.

With so much riding on holiday performance, retailers must focus on security measures and best practices that provide protection without compromising customer experience.  Tighter inventory controls and increased staff size are traditional, costly methods for achieving enhanced store security.  Clearly, in a market where more and more consumers are taking their business online, retailers need the help of cutting edge technology to remain relevant and safe during the holidays.


~Jeff Hauser

What Nobody Knows, Can’t Hurt You

November 16, 2010

When internet titan Google speaks, the marketplace tends to listen.  Thus far, Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco has been no exception.  During his forty-five minute conversation with conference moderators, Google CEO Eric Schmidt discussed the vast array of technological innovations his organization has been hard at work developing.  While the list was long and undoubtedly interesting, Google’s foray into the world of wireless payments was of particular interest to me.

As a payments expert, working for a technology firm focused on making payments more efficient, secure, and cost-effective, I am well acquainted with pairing greater efficiency and enhanced security.  This balancing act was on display at the Web 2.0 Summit as well, as Mr. Schmidt carefully navigated questions related to Google user’s privacy while sharing that Android-enabled Smartphones (using an OS created by Google) will soon come equipped with “tap-and-pay” functionality.  Now, rather than being bogged down with numerous credit cards, Android owners are able to use their cell phones for common, everyday purchases.  While convenient and rife with potential, how much information, as well as what type of information, are individuals comfortable sharing with internet companies like Google, or Facebook?

For years, consumers have been told that they days of paper-based currency are numbered.  Gone are the days of Ben Franklin’s and Andrew Jackson’s; the age of the debit card has arrived.  However, as debit cards are being replaced by data collecting devices like Smartphones, are the days of consumer privacy gone as well?

As we approach the holiday season, I am reminded that the benefits of cash reach beyond often-assumed clandestine purposes.  Rather than making attempts to hide the countless “recommended product” spam messages, forwarded to my email inbox via online retailers after purchasing Christmas gifts for my wife, cash enables me to guard my privacy and thereby deliver holiday surprise.  Couple the advantages of anonymity with the growing unbanked population in the United States and its plain to see why cash is here to stay.  However, the question remains: how can consumers and retailers alike enjoy the benefits of cash (anonymity, funds availability, etc.) while lowering the cost of handling and securing the physical currency?

~Jeff Hauser