Sunday, July 31, 2005

U2, Amsterdam, Smart Cards, and Dataflation

I blame the long gap between posts on U2. A trip to see the band in concert, in Amsterdam, was my present to my wife on her birthday this year.

(Marital Bliss Tip #39: To experience "multiple gratitude" give your partner a trip for his or her birthday and get four stages of pleasure: one, the gift giving day; two, the days between the giving of the gift and the taking of the trip; three, the trip itself; four, the after-glow of telling other people about the trip when you get back).

We thought Amsterdam was a very cool city, even though they were experiencing something of a heat wave. Talk about a civilized, tolerant place! I'm not just talking about a sensible attitude to public transportation, herbal remedies, ethnic diversity, and sexual orientationz. You can take your dog most places, smoke tobacco if you feel like it, and get a good cup of coffee on just about every street. And you can use smartcards (read this if you are not sure what they are).

When you land at Amsterdam airport you can buy a smartcard with which you can then purchase train tickets to get into the city (a very easy and inexpensive way to make the journey). Then buy soft drinks at the station store, tram tickets to travel around the city, and so on. No need for bank notes and coins. When we got to the Amsterdam Arena for the concert we found that all the vendors there took Arena smartcards. Buy one and you can get beer or ice cream or whatever else in a flash. For example, the beer vendors (who stroll through the crowd wearing a keg in a backpack) can squirt you out a glass of beer while you pay by inserting card, hitting Ja, and removing card. No hassle with change means a much more efficient liquid refreshment delivery system.

So, the coolest smartcard has to be the specially minted U2 Vertigo Tour Smartcard that we bought that evening at The Arena. It will go into the commemorative picture frame, along with the tickets and the blurry cell-phone photos of the massive stage with the tiny stick figures of Bono and Edge blown up on the giant projection screen.

But what does this have to do with dataflation? Well, the trip did not prevent me from polishing off a column on the topic that should appear in an upcoming print issue of Information Security Magazine. There may also be an expanded online version where I go further into the practical and legal implications for ID theft victims.

And the widespread use of smartcards reminded me that deploying new data infrastructures is possible. Which means that, if someone comes up with a way to rein in dataflation that requires a new data infrastructure, opponents won't be able to use that requirement as an excuse not to implement it.


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