Time Rebrand Labor Day?

It’s time to give Labor Day a rest. Let’s rename it—rebrand it, if you will.

Let’s call it Irony Day, or maybe Opposite Day — a holiday in honor of what it isn’t. Taking a day off to celebrate work… you gotta love that. Plus, hasn’t a day originally set aside to honor unions become an anachronism, even disingenuous?

Irony has a shelf life, so each year our reimagined festival could put a different subject to on its pedestal: the first Monday of next September, say, could celebrate war and we’d call it Peace Day. Then the following Sept. 1 could be devoted to gluttony, which we’d naturally dub Diet Day.

And Communications Day could celebrate our obsession with ever-new ways to connect through technology — not so much with each other than to our devices.

The possibilities are endless.

Communications Technology: This Changes Nothing

Hyper communication is not necessarily effective communication. Sure, we increasingly have access to almost any person or piece of information at any time. But too often we just talk or Tweet past each other, sticking to scripts without really listening. If nothing else, the modern age is a boon for irony.

The ongoing strife in Washington brings this to mind, naturally. But this is an everyday problem, for just about all the frustrations you and I are likely to have are related to communications, and technology has done little to free us from the drudgery of ourselves.
Read more

NFC Digs Fresh Ground

Near field communication (NFC) is a technology that allows a device like your mobile phone to be recognized by a specially programmed tag or machine, allowing instant transfer of information as well as transactions such as buying tickets or checking into hotel rooms. It essentially transforms customer service into software. It will send a lot of clerking and sales jobs to the boneyard.

You might find more human interaction among actual graves, where headstones may soon be NFC-enabled []. One day you’ll be able to stroll down memory lane (not necessarily your memories) listening to voices from the beyond tell their tales with a simple touch of your mobile. So those Tuesdays with Morrie don’t have to come to an end. You might want to avoid the cemetery on Memorial Day unless you enjoy a cacophony of old war stories.

The Future Is Near

What do movies, ballgames, and operas have in common? If you want to watch them in person you have to stand in line to purchase your tickets or print them out online. Then you have to queue up again at the event to hand over your paper slips. Soon there will be no reason to perpetuate this quaint routine. With near field communication (NFC) you tap your mobile phone against a designated point or tag to process your request: info, seat choice, or payment.

NFC, in other words, proposes to transform customer service into software. If the powers that be and wanna-be have their way we soon may be the flesh-and-bone equivalents of cars zooming through the toll booth with the FastPass on our dashboards.

Wireless communication between devices is nothing new, but unlike a Bluetooth connection, your mobile and the other device don’t have to be programmed to work together; they can simply touch to establish a connection. Just tap your mobile to a pay station employing something like MasterCard’s PayPass program or Visa’s payWave and off you go. If your phone isn’t NFC-enabled you can attach a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag to its back to perform the same magic.

Corporations and governments will be able to track our movements and spending habits accordingly. Which may seem kind of creepy, but should add to efficiencies and better allocate resources. For instance, traffic congestion will ease and municipal coffers will fatten when people pay to drive within a defined area; the City of London has done this successfully for many years. Don’t want to pay? Go another route or take public transport. And instead of feeding a parking meter with coins, you’ll simply tap it with your phone. The information that the space is occupied would then be transmitted to a central server; that database could be accessed by services (apps) letting drivers know where empty spaces exist.

NFC is the leading technology for paying via mobile. Such payments will reach $264.8 billion by the year 2015, according to a recent report, and are especially popular in densely populated Asian Pacific nations, followed by Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa – in other words, the more “under-banked” areas of the world. There are some four billion mobile phone users worldwide, and 1.6 billion bank accounts. You do the math: Mobile payments have huge potential as the gap between the two numbers narrows, and the First World catches up the the Third.

NFC and electronic wallets won’t be ubiquitous of course until most merchants, airlines, buses, train operators, hotels, and entertainment venues adopt the technology. But that day is coming. The biggest mobile carriers and manufacturers support NFC and are pushing retailers to join them in a technology that has been around for years without getting traction – before the advent of mobile smartphones made it, well, smart. “Looks like the technology is getting moving,” says Gerald Madlmayr, an NFC expert in Vienna. “Finally.”

As for all those ticket takers, you’ll have to look for human interaction somewhere else. Zoom, zoom.