Monday, October 17, 2011

Found my Friends, Even the Adulturous Ones

I upgraded to the new iPhone operating system last week, after a lengthy wait when the whole world tried to do it at the same time.

The new iOS has some pretty cool new additions, most of which should add some incremental value to my phone, but largely not earth-shattering.

However, one of the newest Apps for the phone might be earth-shattering for my life if I can play my cards right.

Maybe, just maybe, I can start to persuade my wife to get an iPhone, thanks to the new Find My Friends app.

If you don't know anything about Find My Friends, it's the app that let's you geo-locate your friends who also have iPhones, and place their approximate location on a map.

A great advancement in technology for the obsessives, suspicious, and introverted among us.

The app essentially eliminates the need to actually talk to people to find out where they are, and completely destroys the boundaries between friends that Facebook didn't already obliterate.

Want to hang out with a friend but they're ditching your calls? Find Your Friend on the iPhone and just show up to what will assuredly be an awkward encounter.

This app creates a new threshold in friend-dom, or the friend hierarchy, or levels of friendship. Because you'll really have to be friends with someone to give them your geo-location data. Want to be Facebook or LinkedIn connections with someone? No big deal, you're not obligated to share any personal details with them.

But if my understanding of Find My Friends is correct, if that person's your friend, you're giving them the ability to...

a) Drop by a bar where you're hanging out

b) Know exactly when they can drop by your apartment because you'll be there

c) Know exactly when they can drop by your apartment because you WON'T be there, and they can steal all your stuff

Requesting a Find My Friends friendship with someone would be the true test of how much you want that person in your life, because there doesn't seem to be any in-between. Either they know where your phone is at all times, or they can never find you. Doesn't leave a lot of room for pseudo-friends and acquaintances.

With that said, I'm really hoping for some interesting mash-ups with other technology services.

With TripAdvisor - Find My Fellow Travelers

With Craigslist - Find My Casual Encounters

With the State Sex Offender Registry - Find My Child Predators

I'm also looking forward to more stores about people using Find My Friends for unforeseen purposes. We've already had the first cheating spouse caught, so I'm looking forward to the first robbed apartment while they were out story, the first guilt established by geo-location at the scene of the crime story, and the first stalker found me now I'm suing Apple story. Remember to read your user agreements.

But anyway, with all that said, I'm kind of excited for Find My Friends. Because, while I can't think of a lot of people who would really care where I am, I know with 100% certainty that my wife cares a lot.

And since she knows I don't go anywhere without my phone, she would definitely be interested in using that app (and not in a 'I need to check on my loser husband way, more of a 'Which state is my husband in now and can we confirm his plane didn't go down in a massive fireball' kind of way).

Find My Friends offers that opportunity, and maybe that could convert her.

Then maybe she'd have her own phone and would stop playing games on mine!

Friday, October 7, 2011

First Use of Square

I had my first experience with Square last night.

No, not the shape, I think it's safe to say I've been comfortable with squares ever since they passed me through nursery school. It's also not a new trendy bar where all the glasses/chairs/menu items are squares and there's a whole irony thing about being in a cool place named 'Square' (note to self: file that under foolproof business ideas for later)

I was referring to the mobile payment system designed and built around processing credit card payments via smartphone.

I was making the weekly run from O'Hare to downtown Chicago, and had already recovered from the absurd cab line and stop and go traffic this city has to offer. As we arrived at my destination, I went on full auto pilot for the payment, starting to push the buttons for credit card on the little terminal in the backseat.

I've gotten used to ignoring most cab drivers when I reach for the credit card, because 90% of the time they're trying to explain why their machine is broken or why they'd prefer to take me to a cash machine or some other elaborate reasoning not to use plastic.

Because of that, I didn't notice initially when the cab driver started waving his iPhone at me.

It took me a second to realize what the heck he was up to. But then I noticed the little white dongle (I believe that's an official term), plugged into the phone.

It was a Square card swiper, and although I had read all about them, I had never actually gotten to use one before.

It was surprisingly simple. I ran my card through the little dongle, and then (the one weird part), signed my name on the phone with my finger. That would probably be a little weird for most people, but I was helped by the fact that my signature is a mess anyway. Using one finger instead of all five and a pen wasn't that much of a quality drop-off.

It was pretty seamless, and then I got to decide whether I wanted my receipt as a text or via email. Either way, I wondered if this guy was going to end up with a record of my phone number/email address somewhere. I also wondered what the heck I would do with a text message receipt. Not sure how I'd send that in to the people in our expense department, so I opted for the email.

As long as our expense department doesn't look at the receipt and assumed I'm making it up, I'll officially be on board with this Square thing. Especially if it means more cab drivers will start asking me to swipe a credit card instead of pretending it's not an option

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New TSA Security PreCheck Program Sounds Amazing

Oh cruel fate, you dealt me a crushing blow.

For months I was atwitter with anticipation. The TSA had dribbled out precious little information on their new expedited security program, but I had a golden ticket!

I had gotten the email to opt-in, apparently due to the fact that constant flights from Chicago to Bentonville Arkansas and back indicate a lack of major security risks.

But the solicitation didn't explain what the expedited security process would be, only that it would be in a couple airports and certain American Airlines frequent fliers would be eligible.

As previously noted in this space, DFW was one of the airports on the list for the pilot program. As also previously noted, I was going to be traveling through DFW this past weekend.

You have no idea how excited I was at the potential chance to use expedited security. A true testament to the uber-travel nerd I've become in two years of management consulting.

But yet, I mentioned a crushing blow and something about fate. Indeed.

You see my wife and I got to DFW, where I secretly hoped for a rolled-out red carpet and free champagne for expedited security folk (or if nothing else, at least a shoes-on security line).

Instead, no fanfare, no big band, and nothing special.

I hoped something magical would happen as I checked-in at the kiosk. In place of a boarding pass, a Willy Wonka style golden ticket perhaps? Or some kind of expert-traveler hall monitor-esque sash? What about a crapload of rainbows?

Nothing beyond the dull echo of roller bags wheeling around.

'What gives?' I thought, where the heck was all this pilot program stuff???

As I learned today, the TSA PreCheck program is wonderful in nearly every way I could've imagined.

They just didn't start it until the day after I flew out of DFW.

But while it's too late for me to take advantage on my trip, it doesn't mean the program is without merit! Far from it, as I learned from catching up on the travel news!

I watched the news report with envy as I read off the new conditions for the privileged.

No need to remove:

Light Outerwear
3-1-1 Compliant Bag
Laptop from Carry-on

Holy macaroni! The sign in the video was so pretty I could cry.

No taking off shoes, or belts, or jackets, or removing laptop computers, or liquid bags. NONE OF IT!

It's like the travel gods heard all of the prayers coming from weary consultants, auditors, salesmen, and rationally intelligent people everywhere!

I don't care what information I'd have to give the TSA. I'd give them dibs on my first born for this kind of thing! I'll pay anything, absolutely anything, to have that everywhere.

I just booked tickets to my brother's graduation in May.

The airport...ATL, another member of the pilot program.

I'm counting down the days.