Top Tech News You Need to Know: Apple Pay, The Right to be Forgotten and More

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you made it through the five day week without too much trouble, given last week’s holiday. Of course, Apple’s presentation certainly helped us all through Tuesday and Sept. 11 on Thursday gave us all a reason to look outside work and at our families and friends for inspiration and gratitude. 

In case you missed it, here are the top big data and tech stories from this week, just to get you caught up before the weekend.

92% of Execs Are Happy with Recent Big Data Outcomes

Still think big data isn’t actually churning any ROI? Well, then you’re in the minority. According to consulting firm Accenture’s research, which surveyed more than 1,000 exectives from large companies, 92% of execs said they are “satisfied with the results” from their big data projects, with 89% rating big data as “very important” or “extremely important” to their businesses’ digital transformation. 

OK, don’t think “satisfied with” is good enough? Good thing, then, that 82% of C-level executives and company technology leaders agreed big data provides a “significant source of value” for their companies. 

“Executives are recognizing that big data is one of the cornerstones of digital transformation.”

So, what are these data-driven execs using their big data to do? 84% said their companies use big data “moderately” or “extensively” to identify new sources of revenue, 90% use it to retain and acquire customers and 89% use big data to develop new products and services. 

“Businesses are at a transition point­­ where instead of just talking about the potential results that can be achieved from big data, they are realising actual benefits including increasing revenues, a growing base of loyal customers, and more efficient operations,” said Narendra Mulani, senior managing director of Accenture Analytics. “They’re recognizing that big data is one of the cornerstones of digital transformation.”

Apple Summit Introduces New Tech – And No, It Isn’t a Device

Apple’s two-hour presentation on Tuesday introduced a lot of new technology, most of which the public very much expected. There’s a new iPhone just in time for the holiday season. Check. There’s a new smart watch to bolster Apple’s presence in the wearables market. Check. And there’s a new tap-to-pay tech that has the potential to destroy the likes of PayPal. 

Wait, what?

That’s right: potentially the biggest news to come out of the Apple summit, so to speak, was news of Apple Pay, and the timing couldn’t have been any more serendipitous. Following on the heels of the Home Depot credit card breach, which mimicked the same tactics used in the Target credit card breach of 2013 – which led to Target’s CEO stepping down – Apple Pay is positioned as a safe, secure payment method that anonymizes your credit card number to decrease the chances that your credit card information is stolen in retail breaches. 

Of course, given iCloud security issues raised with the nude celebrity photo hack, many aren’t so sure that a tap-to-pay system is any more secure than a traditional credit card. However, experts are saying that to-date, Apple Pay does indeed seem to be more secure than our plastic cards.

“Your old fashioned credit card can be cloned by a waiter. Merchants routinely have credit card numbers stolen,” said Christopher Soghoian, a technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union who last week criticized Apple’s iCloud security. “There’s not going to be anyone who says Apple Pay is less secure than the old-fashioned swipe cards.”

“There’s not going to be anyone who says it’s less secure than the old-fashioned swipe cards.”

The security of Apple Pay relies on a 16-digit encrypted number. Each card will get its own token specific to the device it is entered on. According to The Wall Street Journal, this is how it works:

“When a consumer wants to buy cheese at a Whole Foods, the device would use a short-range radio system, called near-field communication, or NFC, to send the 16-digit token to the card reader. This token would be paired with a one-time string of random numbers created by encryption keys stored on the iPhone.”

“It’s impossible to do transactions without data, and data is obviously a potential risk,” James Anderson, group head of mobile product development at credit card processor MasterCard Inc., which has worked with Apple on the payment technology, told The Wall Street Journal. “We are hypersensitive to that topic .. Let’s say somebody is listening and is able to pick up the data. Essentially you get a useless 16-digit number. I could email it to my friend and they could email it back to me, but there’s nothing they could do with it.”

Looks like Apple is getting serious about solving the current state of data insecurity.

Europe’s Starring Role in the Big Data Ethics Battle

If there is anyone out there fighting tooth and nail for data rights and data ethics, it is certainly the EU. In what is being dubbed the fight between the right to information and an individual’s right to privacy, the European Court of Justice and Google are going head to head. 

Since May’s “right to be forgotten” decision, Google has moved to accommodate European regulators, quickly starting to implement the ruling, which the company said Tuesday has led to 120,000 requests to remove content from search results. And now, Google is embarking on a seven-city tour of the EU, looking to spark debate over the ruling earlier this year. 

“If there is anyone out there fighting for data rights, it is certainly the EU.”

“We need to balance the right of information against the individual’s right to privacy,” said Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in opening remarks Tuesday. “So we convened a panel of genuine experts whose criteria and qualifications are amazing to talk to us about this.”

Google execs will be on the road, then, for the next two months, looking to gain insight into the issue at hand. 

“We’re committed to complying with the Court’s ruling, but some of the requests we’re receiving raise difficult ethical and legal issues,” a Google spokesman said. “The Advisory Council will give us guidance on how to think about the more complex removal requests, which will complement the guidance we receive from Europe’s data-protection authorities.”

Big Data Gets Up Close and Personal – Yes, Closer Than You Think

Big data is quickly changing the landscapes of our daily lives, both on and offline. This includes the way we eat, work, think, play and, yes, even hook up. And now, thanks to Christian Rudder and OKCupid, we have the data to back it up. 

And because numbers don’t lie, not everything big data reveals about us is very pretty. 

In his new book “Dataclysm, Who We Are When We Think No One Is Watching,” Christian Rudder, Founder of OKCupid, reveals nine revelations about sex and dating – all backed by big data. 

Here’s what we know (again, we emphasize the not-pretty nature of these):

  1. Straight men think women have an expiration date
  2. Straight women are far less likely to express sexual desire than are other demographics
  3. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”
  4. Searches for “Is my husband gay?” occur in states where gay marriage is least accepted
  5. According to Rudder’s research, Asian men are the least desirable racial group to women…
  6. …And black women are the least desirable racial group to men
  7. Users who send copy-and-paste messages get responses more efficiently
  8. Your Facebook Likes reveal can reveal your gender, race, sexuality and political views
  9. Vermont doesn’t shower a whole lot, relatively speaking

Check out this TIME article exploring the data behind these, or just buy Rudder’s book to get the real insight.

Check Out 4 World Trade Center’s Smart Elevators

It just wouldn’t be right to let the week of Sept. 11 pass without a mention as a newsworthy topic. It is. Of course, in typical Umbel style, we’d rather focus on the positive that is coming out of Ground Zero, and this story does just that. 

Beyond 4 World Trade Center being one of New York City’s greenest buildings, a feat in and of itself thanks to the Hearst Tower, it is the only building in the city with smart elevators. 

The elevators use an algorithm that will learn if, say, a tenant typically visits two or three floors in succession at a certain point of the day and automatically route them that way with the swipe of an ID card.

“As expected, security and safety are also very important to 4 World Trade Center.”

“I could program that every time I leave my floor, I go to the 52nd floor, that’s the cafeteria. I can present my badge and the elevator will automatically take me to the 52nd. From there, I want to go to the gym, it’ll automatically do that as well,” Jerry Piserchia, Shindler’s senior project manager, told Fox News.

As expected, security and safety are also very important to 4 World Trade Center. 

“If desired by the tenant, we can feed that information back to them so they can track who is on what floor,” Piserchia said. “So they issue the credentials for who can get in the building, we take care of tracking where they are throughout. A lot of these features have been built in for a number of different reasons including security, preferences, and even in some cases like when SARS was going around Asia and people didn’t want to be touching elevator call buttons.”