Emerging Technology and the Emerging Consumer


Emerging Technology and the Emerging Consumer

Working for Parking Today exposes me to emerging technology that I might not otherwise notice. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about being a journalist – introduction to new ideas, regular research and the chance to develop a working knowledge of many interesting subjects.

Without my position as a PT writer and proofreader, I wouldn’t know anything about autonomous vehicles, PCI compliance, parking sensors and many other technological innovations.

My husband works in a technology-related field, and he’s my other major source of tech info. He makes frequent trips to Asian countries where he observes emerging technology as it is being developed. He has informed opinions about the production, dissemination and the environmental and economic effects of emerging technology, as well as concerns over our daughters’ ability to one day compete with foreign work forces.

Sometimes he wants to pick my brain about what capabilities would make a refrigerator/cellphone/camera more helpful. Sometimes he wants to talk about the rise of “UX” (user experience) and human factors. I do my best to keep up.

All I have to offer the tech world, other than my dollars, is an articulate perspective as a consumer. My opinions about emerging technology aren’t scientifically significant because I’m a writer, not a scientist. What I see as the main challenge to emerging technologies is not the science or the physical implementation – although those factors are enormous. The main challenge is dealing with the entrenched behavioral patterns and attitudes of the average consumer/user.

My husband and I were running around town the other day and had to make a quick stop at a business where the only parking available is metered. We needed just 10 minutes, and neither of us could come up with a quarter. We patted our pockets and looked at each other helplessly.

We stood by the credit card-capable meter and debated the practicality of using a credit card for a 25-cent transaction. It seemed ludicrous and irresponsible to wield credit for such a small amount at a location that seems so insecure. The desire to avoid a parking ticket won out, so we swiped our Amex and went about our business.

Our attitude about credit made us reluctant to use this emerging technology.

Other forms of remote payment are similarly uncomfortable. I categorize credit cards as a mode of payment for serious business such as building credit, online transactions and large purchases. Using an app to reserve and purchase parking, trusting a sensor to read my license plate number and bill me for services, waving my phone around a credit card terminal to pay the hourly rate – these are all activities that give me pause.

I know plenty of people who are leaps and bounds ahead of me in the way they use their smartphones. A fellow PTA parent recently asked me if she could pay me back for lunch through Venmo, a service of PayPal Inc. She has a smartphone app with direct access to her bank account that’s also linked to 10 other people’s bank accounts and a few dozen online retailers.

Thanks, but I think cash works better for me. I’m aware of the amazing things my phone can do, but still highly protective of the information it collects and distributes.

One day I will be accustomed to high-tech environments and will welcome their convenience and ingenuity. For now, I am slow to adopt new technology because my concerns about security and privacy have not been assuaged. In fact, my reservations have only increased. I read about data hacked from “the cloud,” account and login information stolen from major retailers, insurance companies and the hospitality industry.

Everywhere I go, somebody wants me to create an account so they can track my purchases/activity and offer me perks that I don’t want. The perk I want is the safety of my personal and financial information. The connectivity of all this technology is what makes it so convenient and expedient – it’s also what makes it so easy to infiltrate.

My understanding is that methods of advanced data collection are not secure. I don’t feel good about the widespread digital transfer and storage of sensitive information for superficial purposes. For me, the reward does not justify the risk.

Sometimes I can avoid that risk; sometimes I cannot.

Remote payment for parking is becoming more mainstream, but it would be accepted more quickly and comfortably with active and reliable assurance that the information shared is truly secure. If you want me to accept emerging technology, address my concerns. Ease my fears. Soothe my paranoia.

Earn and keep my trust by creating technology that saves me time and effort, but not at the expense of my credit scores or my peace of mind.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
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