Making Money Now

Posted by adgag adgadgvadgv on Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Of all the interesting new tech that seems poised to garner a lot of buzz in 2011, near field communication (NFC), is probably the most exciting. If it takes off, it will transform the ways we communicate, share, and make payments with digital devices. This will likely take years to happen, but the groundwork is being laid right now. And RFinity is one of those companies at the forefront.

While Google and Apple are responsible for generating much of the buzz about NFC at the moment, the technology goes far beyond simply having the right type of chip in your mobile device. For example, how do you handle different types of data transfers being made from one device to another? And how to you ensure that they happen as quickly as possible? And most importantly, how do you ensure that they happen securely? Those are the things that RFinity is thinking about.

The company has just raised $4 million from Horizons Ventures in Hong Kong. And the space has gotten so red hot, in fact, that we hear they’re already out raising another round.

And it’s an easy bet for investors to make not only because of the space, but because of where the project originated: The U.S. Department of Energy. Specifically, RFinity was born when a bunch of infrastructure security experts working for the government were assigned to find all the vulnerabilities in cell phones. Through software they came up with, they were able to quite easily eavesdrop, manipulate SMS messages, and even compromise LAN security. Then they set out to figure out a way to stop people from doing those very things. That work led directly to RFinity.

Work originally began in the person-to-person and person-to-vendor sales space by way of mobile applications that route transactions through RFinity’s own secure servers. But now that NFC appears ready, RFinity is making sure they’re ready for it. The idea is that their technology could cut out the middle man here: themselves.

Obviously, the company isn’t going to share all the details on how they secure NFC transfers. But the basic overview is that they verify an incoming NFC signal and ask for a user’s permission before taking any action. Further, if the action is a transaction, it requires a PIN, just as you might do an ATM withdrawal. That’s all pretty standard. But the key is one-time-use transaction codes that RFinity creates on the fly along with complex cryptographic signatures. These ensure that an transaction is secure since it means that every transaction can only happen once. Even if those numbers were intercepted by a hacker, they would be useless beyond the one-time payment.

And even if your phone is lost or stolen, a thief couldn’t do anything without your PIN. And you can remotely shut down your NFC capabilities via RFinity. It’s enough to make me wish I could throw out all my credit cards right now. “Today’s identification and transaction systems are based on what? A magnetic strip on the back of a card, based on a 1950’s technology that relies on a base station to read the information embedded as a series of simple magnetic markers in plastic tape,” writes Josh Jones-Dilworth, who is working with the company to bring them to market.

Again, NFC as a technology is great and potentially game-changing. But the software is still needed to make it actually work. And some of the big guys began realizing that early on as companies like PayPal, Bank of America, and even Subway have been testing out different things with RFinity for some time. In fact, RFinity has actually been doing field tests of the software end of their technology since 2009 in places like Idaho, well before most people in the U.S. had ever thought about NFC.

But now people are starting to care. And soon, they could be caring a lot more. NFC is already built-in to Google’s new Nexus S device — and the company has put out a call for developers to start using the tech. Rumors have the next iteration of the iPhone gaining the technology as well. In other words, I suspect we may be seeing acquisition rumors starting to fly around RFinity in about six months or so. Provided their technology proves up to the NFC challenge, of course.

It’s nearing two weeks since unions and their cohorts on the Left have thrown a nationwide fit over Scott Walker’s solution to what is ailing Wisconsin. Unions and Democrats have made Wisconsin their cause célèbre by deploying OFA astroturf, the big talking heads, as well as recruiting just about every known Grateful Dead concert attendee on their mailing lists into Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Democratic state senators (now humorously known as fleebaggers) comically continue to hold the state hostage over an issue of union power, politics and money—nothing more and nothing less.

Despite unions’ long hatred of Scott Walker, the new governor is moving to address both the symptoms of the disease and the disease itself—the public-sector union scheme that has molested Wisconsin’s taxpayers and their children by gaming the system. Unions like Wisconsin’s teachers’ union [WEAC] (which was Wisconsin’s biggest-spending lobby in 2009) have been extraordinarily adept at fixing the system through spending millions to elect politicians who, in turn, reward the unions at the expense of the taxpayers.

Now, in response to Walker’s proposals, the Left has gone overboard in their attempt to protect their stranglehold on Wisconsin taxpayers. Even though unions have made clear that their fight is not about their wages or benefits (they’ve offered concessions), they’ve made the fight all about their “right to be unionized” and the fictitious right to “collective bargaining”—which makes their cause even more despotic.

In making Madison into something reminiscent of the spectacle of the 1960s, unions, Democrats and their liberal cohorts are attempting to make the Wisconsin union battle into a civil rights battle, when it is not.  In fact, the Wisconsin fight, when compared to private-sector negotiations is about: 1) the Scope of Bargaining, 2) Union “Income” Security [Right-to-Work vs. Forced Dues], 3) whether Wisconsin should be the unions’ dues collection agency [payroll deduction of dues], and 4) whether public-sector unions should be ‘recertified’ by holding elections every year.

Contrary to the Left’s hyperbole, Scott Walker’s proposals do nothing to eliminate public-sector workers’ right to association, assemblage, or to petition their government. Even pretending that it is a “rights” issue is a mistake. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires a government to engage in a back and forth negotiation with a collective of workers. In a poignant piece entitled There is No Right to Collective Bargaining, Public Service Research Foundation President David Denholm summarizes the problem with the unions’ argument, stating:

A law granting public-sector unions monopoly bargaining privileges gives a union, a special interest group, two bites at the apple. First, it uses its political clout to elect public officials. Then it negotiates with the very same officials.

When you consider that between 70 and 80 percent of all local government expenditures are personnel costs, you begin to get an idea of the magnitude of the power such laws give unions.

Not only is there no right to collective bargaining in public employment, it is wrong. Collective bargaining distorts and corrupts democratic government.

Collective bargaining is a process for employer-employee relations that was designed for the private sector. This process served as the model for the development of public-sector collective bargaining without taking into account the fundamental differences between the two sectors.

As Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour explains:

“When they have collective bargaining in Wisconsin, on one side of the table there’s state employee unions or the local employee unions. On the other side of the table are politicians that they paid for the election of those politicians,” Barbour said. “Now, who represents the taxpayers in that negotiation? Well, actually, nobody.”

Even Newsweek’s Evan Thomas noted on Sunday [via Newsbusters]:

The Democrats really depend on these public employee unions in a lot of states for their support and for their political muscle, and public employee unions got a problem here. I want to distinguish between unions and public employee unions. Unions obviously are critical, but in the public sector, public employee unions have a pretty easy time getting a lot of benefits because nobody’s really pushing back all that hard.

Admittedly, Walker’s proposals are a threat to unions in several ways. As Walker’s proposals determine:

  1. The extent of what unions will be allowed to bargain about. Walker’s proposal limits bargaining to wages only, effectively eliminating the WEA Trust monopoly which gets its money from local school boards and runs it through a union-run insurance company.

  2. Whether unions can have workers fired for not paying union dues. According to its most recent financial record on file, WEAC (the teachers’ union) raked in over $25 million in 2009. Walker’s proposal makes paying union dues voluntary, as opposed to mandatory. This goes to the lifeblood of any union. If, for example, 20% of those teachers who are currently required to pay union dues as a condition of employment opt out, WEAC could lose up to $5 million a year in revenue. [It is noteworthy that, in the private-sector, the SEIU will be conducting its second strike at a Pennsylvania medical center over the issue of mandatory dues.]

  3. Whether the state will continue being the unions’ dues collector. Walker’s proposal eliminates’ the employers’ payroll deduction of union dues. Again, while it is commonplace for unions to negotiate payroll deduction, there is nothing anywhere (in private or public sector law) that states that it is an employers’ duty to be a union’s collection agency.

  4. Whether the unions will have to ‘re-certify’ every year to maintain representational status. Of all of Walker’s proposals, this seems to be one that could be considered a ‘throw away’ item in negotiations. If Walker’s other proposals get enacted, and union-represented employees feel that the union is worthless, they can initiate an election themselves every calendar under existing law [see Section 111.83(5)[h]] .

Given the ability of the unions and their co-conspirators on the Left to hijack the issue in Wisconsin over these last two weeks, there appears no way for a “win-win” compromise to be worked out. One side or the other will win. Either the unions and the Left, or taxpayers will prevail.

If the Left wins, all chances of reforming public-sector unions will be tossed aside by weak-kneed Republicans who will then be held hostage by temper-tantrum throwing Democrats (see Indiana for example). In addition, the Left has already painted the entire Republicans party with bulls eyes and has for years. Therefore, there is no reason for GOP governors like Scott Walker, Chris Christie and John Kasich to back down, which puts the Left in an untenable situation as well.

In the meantime, the disciples of Saul Alinsky will continue their prattle, attempting to convince America that the Battle of Wisconsin is something more than a fight over union power, politics and money…even though it’s not.


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


Photo Credit: Tony the Misfit

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