Mag-Stripe Cards Get Smart

A tiny startup wows DemoFall by making the ubiquitous magnetic stripe card a whole lot smarter.

1 min read

Magnetic stripe cards are by no means perfect—they’re basically as dumb as digital technology gets. But they are supported by a vast infrastructure of magnetic stripe readers, and any discussion about making the cards better typically grinds to a halt when this infrastructure is considered.

Enter Dynamics Inc., a little company from Pittsburgh. Attending the DemoFall 2010 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., its CEO Jeff Mullen admitted it was his first visit ever to Silicon Valley.

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Mullen may be a stranger to the valley, but he’s no stranger to creative ideas implemented in Silicon. Instead of trying to replace the magnetic stripe on the card, Dynamics added a layer of electronics under it. Those electronics can reprogram that stripe on the fly. That means cards could have switchable numbers—use one for debit, one for credit, perhaps. They could also require that users tap in a security code before they’ll work, meaning a stolen card is essentially a dead card. Mullen’s plan for what he calls Card 2.0 is to sell the technology to the credit card issuers—and, he says, they are definitely interested. He tells me all about it in the video, above.

(And if you think he’s exuberant here, you should have seen him after the DemoFall attendees voted Dynamics winner of the People’s Choice award.)

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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