McDonald’s Gets Softcard

Softcard (formerly Isis), a mobile payment system that competes with Apple Pay and Google Wallet, announced today that it is accepted at more than 14,000 McDonald’s locations around the country beginning today. Smartphone owners can make NFC-based mobile payments at the register and the drive-thru at all McDonald’s restaurants. McDonald’s will also accept Apple Pay.

Last month, Subway also announced a partnership with Softcard to support mobile payments.

Softcard is free to download and is compatible with more than 80 Android handsets sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Softcard combines payments, offers and loyalty in one app. Softcard uses the EMV Contactless specification and SmartTap technology to enable payments, offers and loyalty redemption through one tap.

Apple Pay saw more than one million card activations within 72 hours of launch, reports NFC World, and is already the leading NFC payments player in the US, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook outlined future growth plans for the service at the WS Journal D Live conference this week, including a potential partnership with Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba.

US pharmacy chains Rite Aid and CVS plan to launch their own CurrentC mobile payment service in 2015, and have stopped accepting NFC payments, blocking mobile payments services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard.

Unfortunately, CurrentC is now warning people that hackers have already swiped some of the beta tester’s email addresses.

Mobile proximity payments have to date proven lacklustre despite the hundreds of millions spent on developing these platforms. But loyalty rewards and benefits of the digital wallet is now seen by many as potentially the killer app that will help to finally ignite the long simmering mobile proximity payment market.

Ovum’s research indicates that 53% of consumers globally report they’ve either used or are interested in redeeming offers and coupons with their handsets, while 44% have used or are interested using their mobile device to pay for things in store and restaurants, explains Gilles Ubaghs, Senior Analyst, Financial Services Technology at Ovum.

Aerohive Announces Verizon LTE compliant WiFi Router

Aerohive Networks, a leader in controller-less Wi-Fi for the enterprise market, has introduced their Verizon-embedded LTE plus Wi-Fi branch router. The Aerohive BR200-LTE-VZ Router provides embedded Verizon 4G LTE capabilities. The turnkey solution allows granular control and security, with the ability to set up Quality of Service (QoS), time-of-day access schedules, firewall policies and web security settings.

Aerohive’s BR200 series comes in three models: the BR200, the BR200-WP (which includes PoE and 3×3 3 spatial stream), and the BR200-LTE-VZ which runs on the Verizon network. The BR200-LTE-VZ allows enterprises to instantly deploy Aerohive’s Personal Engagement Platform for retail, enabling retailers to prototype and test new loyalty solutions

Aerohive has been named a Gold-tier member of the Verizon Partner Program. The Verizon Partner Program tailors regional and national opportunities for systems integrators, value added resellers, agents and solutions providers.

Aerohive’s cloud-enabled wireless network can deliver a zero-touch, auto-provisioned network, complete with wired and wireless connectivity, for secure access.

Aerohive’s HiveManager Network Management System has the ability to manage devices from the cloud, so a central administrator can control wireless access remotely, regardless of where the routers are located. Corporate networks can then easily deploy secure, wireless networks and reduce complexity and time-to-operation of Wi-Fi deployments, says Aerohive.

Aerohive’s BR200-LTE-VZ router is available today and starts at $1,199 US list.

IDC predicts that the number of connected “things” will grow from 11.4 billion in 2014 to 28.1 billion in 2020. As a result, branch locations in industries ranging from hospitality to banking must be equipped to meet connectivity needs while ensuring secure, compliant access to corporate resources, says Aerohive.

Opensource Dronecode Project Announced

The Dronecode Project, administered by the nonprofit Linux Foundation, aims to establish common technology for use across the industry. The concept behind Dronecode is to create an open hardware and software stack, where companies can plug in modules for enhanced performance whether it be sensors, piloting, mission planning or other functions. The Android ecosystem is their model.

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Chris Anderson, who started DIY Drones and later 3D Robotics, is behind Dronecode. It utilizes open source hardware and software and includes the APM/ArduPilot UAV software platform and associated code. Examples of Dronecode projects include APM/ArduPilot, Mission Planner, MAVLink and DroidPlanner.

Founding members include 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm, Skyward.io, Squadrone System and others.

PX4 ​is an independent, open-source, open-hardware project aiming at providing a high-end autopilot. The PX4 from 3D Robotics, for example, features advanced processor and sensor technology for controlling any autonomous vehicle.

ArduPilot (also ArduPilotMega – APM), was created in 2007 by the DIY Drones community, based on the Arduino open-source electronics prototyping platform.

H.265 encoding, available on Qualcomm’s 810 smartphone processor can reduce HD bandwidth by 50%. Portland’s Elemental Technologies can do the number crunching in the cloud, bring real-time video to all manner of displays.

OpenVX provides mobile developers with an industry standard API to deliver embedded computer vision and computational imaging chipsets that can keep UAVs on track.

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“Open source software and collaborative development are advancing technologies in the hottest, most cutting-edge areas. The Dronecode Project is a perfect example of this,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation.

“By becoming a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, the Dronecode community will receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough. The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects.”

See: Columbia River Drones

Hotspot 2.0 Streamlines New User Accounts

The Wi-Fi Alliance has expanded its Passpoint program, which provides seamless connection and WPA2 security, to include a streamlined method to establish new user accounts and connect Wi-Fi-only devices.

The WiFi Alliance is a non-profit trade organization formed to provide interoperability between device and promote the benefits of WiFi. The new features in Passpoint are particularly valuable to mobile and fixed operators, and open opportunities for other sectors, says the organization.

“Wi-Fi-first” business models have provided a disruptive counterpoint to traditional operator services, and retailers are deploying Wi-Fi as a way to improve customer engagement, says The Alliance. Wi-Fi roaming agreements among service providers are emerging as an important complement to traditional cellular roaming.

“Enthusiasm for Passpoint from both mobile and fixed operators continues to mount, and the strategic value of Passpoint extends into new segments as well,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “What makes the new features exciting is that they empower businesses to realize the powerful commercial impact that Wi-Fi can offer by giving them the ability to engage with customers on a new platform in a secure and streamlined fashion.”

Passpoint was launched in 2012 and is based on Wi-Fi Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0 Technical Specification. Fixed and mobile operators, including Boingo, Orange, SK Telecom, and Time Warner Cable. More than 20 operators are now participating in Wi-Fi roaming trials based on Passpoint.

The Passpoint program expansion builds on its foundational authentication and security mechanisms, adding features that make Passpoint more versatile and scalable:

  • Online sign-up and immediate account provisioning: Passpoint now enables a streamlined process to establish a new user account at the point of access.
  • Secure registration: The process of establishing a new account or connecting a second device takes place securely.
  • Operator policy: Passpoint now includes the capability for service providers to distribute their specific subscriber policies, such as which networks to join and in what order of preference.

The Passpoint certification program test suite includes support from Aruba Networks, Broadcom, Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm Atheros, and Ruckus Wireless.

Tech Leaders: NSA Damages Digital Economy

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) convened a roundtable on “The Impact of Mass Surveillance on the Digital Economy,” at Palo Alto High School — the same gym where the Senator held a school record of leading scorer in basketball.

Wyden, now better known as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was flanked by executives and lawyers from some of U.S. tech’s biggest companies: Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Dropbox.

The hour-long session shifted from talk about the digital economy to the risks posed by government surveillance programs to human-to-human communications.

Wyden cited a study from Forrester Research that found that surveillance concerns could cost U.S. companies a quarter of their foreign revenue by 2016.

According to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith:

“The fundamental issue is pretty straightforward. It’s all about trust. And it is personal to people. Just as people would not put their money in a bank they don’t trust, they will be reluctant to store their personal information in a data center or on a phone that they don’t trust. These issues have undermined people’s trust in American technology, and that’s a shame.”

“If you’re a consumer or a company, you own your email, your text messages, your photos and all the content that you create,” he said. “Even when you put your content in our data centers or on devices that we make, you still own it and you are entitled to the legal protection under our Constitution and our laws. We will not rebuild trust until our government recognizes that fundamental principle.”

Congress has been considering reforms to U.S. digital communication laws, particularly the USA FREEDOM Act. But those efforts have been slow going, reports the Washington Post. With only a bare majority of Americans opposed to U.S. government anti-terrorism surveillance, the event was likely a preview of how the issue will be framed when Congress returns to session: as a personal affront to American citizens, to U.S.-based technology entrepreneurs and to the global community.

“The simplest outcome is we’re going to end up breaking the Internet,” said Google’s Schmidt. Foreign governments, he said, are “eventually going to say, we want our own Internet in our country because we want it to work our way, and we don’t want the NSA and these other people in it.”

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said the spying scandal will continue to impact Google and other tech companies.

The impact is “severe and is getting worse,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to wind up breaking the Internet.”

New Outdoor & Indoor 11ac Access Points from Ruckus

Ruckus Wireless announced today the expansion of its line of Smart 802.11ac ZoneFlex access points with the launch of four new models.

The expanded lineup includes the new Ruckus ZoneFlex R500 (2×2:2) and ZoneFlex R600 (3×3:3) indoor dual-band (2.4/5 GHz) mid-range models.

The two new Ruckus outdoor APs are the ZoneFlex T300 Series with 802.11ac, the ZoneFlex T300e omnidirectional, which includes support for optional external 5 GHz antennas, and the ZoneFlex T301s, a 120 degree sectorized beam model with a sector adaptive antenna.

The dual-band indoor and outdoor 802.11ac APs integrate patented Ruckus BeamFlex+ technology for better performance and interference mitigation, as well as ChannelFly for predictive channel selection based on real-time capacity analysis. Ruckus says the new outdoor ZoneFlex T300 Series APs feature the industry’s smallest and lightest form factors.

“Our new indoor, mid-range APs are exceptional, high-performance options for deployments in small to mid-size retail businesses, branch offices of large enterprises, hotel common areas, classrooms and libraries, delivering best-in-class performance and reliability at competitive prices,” said Greg Beach, vice president of Product Management. “Our ZoneFlex T300 outdoor APs provide more flexibility for customers desiring carrier-class, high-capacity, high-density outdoor 11ac Smart Wi-Fi radio technology.”

Both the new ZoneFlex R500 and R600 APs can be powered by a standard Power over Ethernet (PoE) 802.3af and are easily concealed. Dual-band support allows for concurrent Internet and IP-based video services; wired ports that enable easy connections to laptops, VoIP phones, cash registers, printers, and other business devices, and; multiple SSIDs for differentiated user services.

The ZoneFlex T300e and T301s are lighter than other outdoor 802.11ac APs, and are among the smallest outdoor 802.11ac APs on the market.

The ZoneFlex T300e includes all of the features of the T300 model, plus offers the ability to attach a wide variety of external 5 GHz antennas.

It’s designed for mounting on poles, street corners, and rooftops, where the AP is remote from antennas or where the AP requires custom engineered RF coverage.

The ZoneFlex T301s has a sector adaptive antenna that is designed specifically for providing the best coverage and capacity at wider 120 degree sectors and can be mounted on poles and exterior walls. Both models are easy to install, and support co-location operation with distributed antenna systems (DAS) and small cell radios.

All four of these new Ruckus APs also feature 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE), support up to 500 clients each, and can operate as a standalone AP, or be centrally managed by a Ruckus ZoneDirector controller, or Ruckus SmartCell Gateway (SCG) 200 or virtual SmartCell Gateway (vSCG) for maximum scalability.

Ruckus Smart Wireless Services with Cloud-based Smart Wi-Fi include: the Ruckus Smart Positioning Technology (SPoT™) service, a Cloud-based location-based service; the Ruckus Smart Access Management Service (SAMs) for better enabling public Wi-Fi hotspots; and the virtual SmartCell Gateway, a carrier-grade Network Virtualization solution for mobile network operators (MNOs) and multiple system operators (MSOs).

The ZoneFlex R500 indoor 802.11ac AP has an MSRP of $645 (USD), and the ZoneFlex R600 indoor 802.11ac AP has an MSRP of $795 (USD). The ZoneFlex T300e outdoor 802.11ac AP has an MSRP of $1,395 (USD), and the ZoneFlex T301s outdoor AP has an MSRP of $1,495 (USD). All four will be available worldwide in Q4 2014 through authorized Ruckus Big Dog resellers.