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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Starbucks Starts Accepting Mobile Payments Nationwide




Nearly 6,800 company-operated Starbucks stores in the U.S. will begin accepting mobile payments Wednesday. Customers using the Starbucks Card Mobile app on their iPhone, iPod touch or BlackBerry will now be able to use those devices as tender.

The nationwide rollout marks the official launch of the Starbucks Card Mobile payment program, which has been piloted at Target stores and select San Francisco, Seattle and New York Starbucks locations.

Starbucks Card Mobile [iTunes link] lets users add their Starbucks Cards, track rewards and reload cards as needed via PayPal or credit card. To pay with their phone, app users simply select “touch to pay” and hold up the barcode on their mobile device screen to the 2-D scanner at the register.

An Android application is also said to be in the works, but the company has yet to disclose a release date.


Starbucks is using its own custom-built technology to enable the 2-D mobile barcode scans. The coffee retailer opted for barcode scanning over near field communication technology — which Google (Google) is exploring — because of its limited availability. The coffee retailer was reluctant to wait for a NFC ecosystem to develop when its customers have expressed interest in mobile payments now, according to Chuck Davidson, the category manager of innovation on the Starbucks Card team. “Once there are more users, we will adapt,” he says.

In testing, Starbucks assessed the mobile payment option by measuring application speed, transaction speed and total customer wait time, says Brady Brewer, vice president of Starbucks Card and brand loyalty. In all instances, Starbucks Card Mobile was the fastest way for customers to pay.

Starbucks is investing in mobile payments, an investment Davidson describes as modest in relation to expectations, because customers have requested the option and have shown a propensity to not only pay with Starbucks Cards — one in five transactions are made using a Starbucks Card — but frequently use their smartphones while waiting in line.

The company also believes that its customers carry their mobile phones more often than a wallet or purse, and sees Starbucks Card Mobile and the mobile payment program as an opportunity to reach these consumers and build stronger relationships.

Starbucks seems confident that its customers will appreciate the new, faster way to pay. Both Davidson and Brewer believe that adoption will spread as customers tell their friends about the new mobile payment option.
Image courtesy of gumption, Flickr

Stimulus Writ Small: Tiny California Town Prints Its Own Currency

Written by: Keith Wagstaff
currency

Josh Freeman of North Fork, CA sure took President Obama’s talk about providing help to “Main Street, not Wall Street” seriously. The tiny town of 2,400 people, located near Yosemite National Park, sits in a county with a staggering 15.7 percent unemployment rate. Seeing his town struggle, Freeman did what any red-blooded American would do: create his own currency. North Fork Shares, emblazoned with pictures of a butterflies and hummingbirds, are worth $12 per share, and are available in half and quarter shares.

This idea actually isn’t new; Ithaca, NY has its own currency, Ithaca Hours, which it launched way back in 1991. There are plenty of other local currencies around the United States: BerkShares in Massachusetts, the Plenty in Pittsboro, N.C., etc. The idea is to keep money in the community by encouraging spending only at local vendors who accept the money, like Disney Dollars, except less evil. Freeman explains his motivations to the L.A. Times, stating that ”In a small town, you tend to look out for each other …. With the changes in economy, the more we support each other in positive ways, the better the quality of life is for everyone.”


It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea, but it’s definitely a smart way to keep things local. If you had, say, a wallet full of $6 North Fork half-shares and you were trying to decide between the local coffee shop and Starbucks, chances are you would head over to the local coffee shop to spend your cash. Each bill is legal and printed on washable, synthetic paper called yupo.

Will North Fork Shares help revive the local economy? Only time will tell; if anything, the residents of North Fork will have undertaken a community building exercise and in this economy, hey, anything is worth a shot.

Adult Chocolate Milk: The New Four Loko?


From: http://blogs.laweekly.com/

adultchocolatemilk.jpg
Now that the original version of Four Loko has been deemed unsafe by FDA decree -- spawning loads of free publicity for the alcohol-fueled energy drink, a lucrative black market, a way to gas up your car, and, eventually, a stimulant-free formulation that beats the ban -- a new product hopes to fill the gaping void.
If recent history teaches us anything, it's that consumer passion for the Bottled Cocktail of the Moment is inevitably followed by a near-hysterical "Won't somebody think of the children?" panic. Next in line for the Helen Lovejoy treatment: Adult Chocolate Milk (website is very AFW*).

Combining 40-proof vodka with "real cream" (hmmm...), the drink is sold in a "retro-chic" glass bottle with a swing top closure. Adult Chocolate Milk, which was inspired by a casual Facebook post, launched a couple months ago and is now available in 19 states. It has proved so popular, the parent company plans to branch out with Adult Orange Cream, Adult Fruit Punch and Adult Limeade in May.

For maximum legislative hand-wringing, we just need the Adult Beverage Company to add some caffeine into the mix, perhaps combining it with Starbuck's forthcoming 31-ounce Trenta. Until then, it's nice to know that when we're just too lazy to pour vodka and milk into the baby's bottle, we have a backup plan. Oh, you mean it isn't for infants...?

*AFW: Annoying For Work. i.e. the website endlessly plays a maddening jingle with no obvious way to turn it off. (When will this insanity end? Not until Flash is ripped from the stiff lifeless fingers of every website designer, apparently.)

Schoolbus Bump ♫ I believe I can fly! ♪




i love video phones...

Test-Riding Personal Rapid Transit in Masdar City (Video)


by Brian Merchant
from http://www.treehugger.com/

masdar-prt-cars.jpg

Photos: Brian Merchant

Masdar City was designed to be a cleantech geek's dream come true -- it will be almost entirely powered by renewable energy, cooled by towers that draw wind into breeze corridors, and navigated by a number of futuristic mass transportation options. The Personal Rapid Transit system -- all-electric, driverless pod cars that would ferry denizens around Masdar along magnetically guided lines -- was the transportation proposal that perhaps attracted the most excitement. And for good reason: the PRT is sleek, low-carbon, and pretty damn fun to ride. I had the good fortune of testing it out during an extensive tour of Masdar City yesterday -- it went something like this:




Nick Aster of Triple Pundit was on the tour as well, and he put together this great video of the PRT ride (sadly, Air's electro-lounge background music wasn't included in the real-life experience -- but if you had to pick a single song that should be, this one's got my vote ...).

masdar-prt.jpg

Now, the PRT has been the subject of much speculation, and it looks as if plans to adopt the system to the scale originally envisioned (3,000 units making 150,000 trips a day) have largely been abandoned. They're made by the Dutch company 2GetThere, and are essentially little electric cars, each powered by lithium-phosphate batteries. As it stands, there are just a handful of the vehicles ferrying the slightly larger handful of people who currently live in Masdar between the two stations -- while we waited, some residents did hop on the PRT.

Granted, there's only one cluster of buildings built thus far in Masdar, so it was a short ride. But it amply demonstrated the comfort, smoothness, and general I-feel-like-I'm-in-the-future-ness one would expect from riding the PRT.

Greatest Dance Performance Ever via Bobcats Jumbotron





The Kiss Cam has always been my favorite jumbotron scene, but that may soon change thanks to the Charlotte Bobcats’ Sprite Spark Fan Cam, which asks fans to dance their hearts out when the camera is on them for a chance to win a prize.  We are not quite sure what that prize is, but it better be good considering the outstanding performance they got from this second coming of Michael Jackson.

It comes as little surprise to see that his moon walks, spins and splits won him this competition.  I guess his only real threat came from that little boy at the 1:20 mark, whose “milk the cow” moves would help reinforce the notion that white boys can’t dance.
It may not be long before either of these boys has his own halftime show.

Go back to the island: Lost short shot entirely on location



Corey Vidal has created a 6-minute short that brings us back to Dharma — shot entirely on the abandoned Hawaii sets for Lost. We have to go back to the island!
[via The Daily What]

Company Offers Training To AZ Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

By Steve Elliott
gI_0_GreenwayLOGO.jpeg
Graphic: PRWeb
Gus Escamilla, the founder and CEO of Greenway University in Denver, plans to offer fledgling Arizona dispensaries an education in the business of medicinal cannabis.

His team helped open more than 225 dispensaries in California, Colorado and the western United States, according to Escamilla, reports John Yantis at The Arizona Republic.

"The demographic that we recognized, it's not the 21- to 28-year-olds," Escamilla said of prospective dispensary owners. "It's the 35- to 65-year-olds, the displaced professionals, the people that want to get into this industry in total and complete compliance with the state laws or jurisdiction that they live in."

Later this month, Greenway University, which says its curriculum is provisionally approved by a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, plans a two-day, $295 seminar in Scottsdale. Students can learn about the political and legal issues surrounding marijuana, as well as how to grow the herb and prepare it in a snack form called edibles.

Those who do well can become "budtenders," helping patients select the best strains of marijuana for their particular ailments.

Gus Photo[1]-thumb-250x383.jpeg
Photo: Denver Westword
Gus Escamilla, Greenway University: "There's a lot of people that kind of see it as a savior from a business perspective"
​ Escamilla isn't alone in seeing the opportunity represented by Arizona's coming dispensaries. For example, Bruce Bedrick, a Phoenix chiropractor, is already marketing a dispensing system.

Once the state's regulations are in place, many entrepreneurs will likely want to get in on the beginning of what some call a sure high-growth industry.

Arizona voters narrowly passed Proposition 203 last November. The new law will allow qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from dispensaries, or grow up to 12 cannabis plants if they live 25 miles or farther from the nearest dispensary.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is now reviewing more than a thousand comments on the proposed medical marijuana rules. A new draft of the rules is expected by the end of the month, followed by a second comment period. Final rules are expected in March.

Those who attend his classes are "flat-out entrepreneurs," according to Escamilla, who see the industry as more than just growing and selling marijuana. For example, insurance brokers who sell medical marijuana insurance, real estate agents who lease or sell dispensary space, and security people employed by pot shops have attended his program, he said.

"There's a lot of outside interest just from those who are more entrepreneurial," Escamilla said. "There's a lot of people that kind of see it as a savior from a business perspective."

Gerry-Keim.jpg
Arizona State University
Professor Gary Keim: "It's the classic high-risk, potentially high-return situation"
​ Starting up a pot dispensary is much like launching other businesses, according to Gerry Keim, a professor of entrepreneurship at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. There's learning how to cater to customers, measuring the competition and building relationships with suppliers.

"But this is one where you have uncertainty about the future of the rules of the game," Keim said. "They will be emerging."

Those able to land a spot in the market early may be better able to influence legislators and regulators, Keim said. "It's the classic high-risk, potentially high-return situation," he said.

Bedrick, the Phoenix chiropractor mentioned earlier, has held local seminars to inform others about medical marijuana permitting and how to properly run a dispensary.

He is marketing what he said was the most technologically advanced solution to get marijuana to patients: A medical dispensing system that looks like an ATM and could be run from a business office. The system is called the Medbox.

Bedrick said his system was the most affordable way for entrepreneurs because it requires as little as $25,000 to get into an investment pool.

"We are the most compliant, most fraud free, safest and most lean business model," Bedrick claimed, predicting there will be more security and regulations as rules develop.

Bedrick said his licensed technology was devised after regulatory problems plagued California.

"The best way to be compliant is to take human error out of it," he said, adding that his machines offer video security and biometric scanning if necessary. The Medbox machines take cards, so patients don't have to pay cash for medicine.

Software that will meet state requirements for a real-time database would be able to shut down dispensing to patients with expired medical marijuana ID cards, or those who already bought their supply, Bedrick said.

"Our technology and software does that whole job for the state," Bedrick said. "Whatever system Arizona creates, we will seamlessly integrate with that."

According to trainer Escamilla, traditional sources of funding for startups are hard to come by in the marijuana business. "People either self-fund or they put together business plans and attract friends and family to fund their startups," he said.

Greenway University has lawyers, CPAs and dispensary owners speak at seminars. Escamilla suggests that future pot shop owners hire a good attorney and an accountant.

"It's more for business transaction and formation as opposed to criminal defense, which, for most people, that's their first thought process," Escamilla said.

Finding landlords who agree to host a dispensary can also be a challenge, Escamilla said. But if you follow the rules, he said it's possible for some owners with several dispensaries to earn seven figures annually.

Startup costs run from $25,000 to $500,000, according to Escamilla, who expects annual license fees to be about the same as Colorado's: $7,500 for less than 300 patients, $12,500 for 300-500 patients and $17,500 for more than 500 patients.

Escamilla stressed professionalism as a way of winning over communities. "We express to the student base it's a professional environment, that we have to be mindful of the neighbors, the communities that we live in, and to tailor your marketing in such a way that it's tasteful," he said. "It's an approach where you want to have a 42-year-old mother of two be able to come to your facility and use this as an alternative form of medicine."

One of the ways to make people more comfortable with marijuana, he said, is to educate them that medical cannabis does not have to be smoked. He emphasized that patients can get their medication through edibles, sodas, ice creams and through vaporization, which eliminates toxins associated with smoke by heating the cannabis to form a mist.

10 Classic Video Game Commercials


Posted by Rich Shievener

Mario3.jpg
Super Mario Bros. 3 joined the UN in '90.

And the nostalgia begins! Back in the day, Nintendo, SEGA and others hit the TV markets hard with clever adverts aimed at young kids who already loved Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter II and something called SEGA CD (ahem). 

We thought it would be fun to revisit some of these masterpieces of marketing to see how far companies like Nintendo have come.

Our list begins, though, with a little love for Atari and Pac-Man.



10) Ms. Pac-Man


This woman was not only kicking more ghost ass than her hubby, she was also apparently Broadway bound, or something like that. "Don'tcha know? I'm more than Pac-Man with a bow!"

9) Dr. Mario


Now it's stuck in your head - get over it. Yes, Nintendo went a little overboard pushing this Tetris-y game out to the masses, but that's not to say this is ridiculous. Unless you factor in that kid's scat solo.

8) Super Mario Bros. 3


Most of us joined the Mario cult (shown here) when this dropped stateside in 1990. In terms of this commercial, it's interesting because it lacks a gameplay clip, and instead hypes Mario's popularity. Wallets were drained immediately.

7) Legend of Zelda
 

See? No game clips in this Japanese ad. That's okay, though, because we're watching the awesomest Nintendo rap ever. Seriously, it's 30 seconds away from being a music video.

6) Sonic the Hedgehog 2


Ah, an early sign of viral marketing. Mom grated cheese with this, and my wiener dog had a copy, too.

5) Street Fighter II


Capcom likely had to toughen up its adverts when Mortal Kombat started ripping heads off in '92. Why not just throw Blanka in the ring with Raiden?

4) Mortal Kombat


Creepy. Something about this. Is Creepy. It's the menacing kid and his sense of anarchy. Parents beware (maybe).

3) Game Genie

Hyping the hackers' delight of video games, it's an obvious homage to Bill and Ted, dudes, championing the lazy. And the stoned?

2) Doom



We're taking you to hell with the Jaguar. This console
pretty much only had Doom to count on for sales, hence the reason for
creating this shadowy commercial.

1) SEGA CD
 

You heard it: Sega! Sega CD's Samuel L. Jackson carbon copy scared us into rigging our Genesis with this short-lived add-on. Here's another, except it's not as twisted.
















Comments


Brian said:
How could you possibly miss this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwLdhygtbYs

To this day ... whenever I think of Zelda, this commercial comes to mind.




VeenReen said:
OK this makes a lot of sense dude.

www.anon-tools.edu.tc




Games On PlayStation 3 said:
Wow, the old SEGA! yell, how i missed it.



Kevin said:

That original MK commercial brings back some great memories



Mark said:
Where the hell is the Mario RPG commercial with the insane old man?




Rich said:
Yum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNtuK4CU3ko&feature=related




Zoss said:
@Brian: That is a great one. That commercial still pops up in my head every now and again as well.



Adam said:

Is that Don Pardo doing the announcing on the Ms. Pac Man commercial?



Kevin said:
That original MK commercial brings back some great memories




Mark said:
Where the hell is the Mario RPG commercial with the insane old man?








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