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Technology and Life Sciences Blog

Credit Card Chips and the Ongoing Battle to Combat Fraud: EMV Cost Affecting Retailer Adoption

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September 19, 2016

By Ryan Berman  

According to a report from Javelin Strategy & Research, losses from credit card fraud in the U.S. topped $8 billion last year. These skyrocketing losses prompted a new EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) global standard. This standard recommends equipping credit cards with computer chips that create a unique code for each transaction. As such, it prevents thieves from “skimming” information, to which traditional magnetic stripe cards are susceptible.   

Instead of swiping cards, consumers can either “dip” their EMV cards into a terminal slot or tap them against a scanner. There are two types of EMV cards: the chip-and-signature card, which is predominantly in the U.S.; and the chip-and-pin card (considered a higher level of security), which is more widespread in Europe. 

The EMV card is not 100% secure, though, as it won’t protect online purchases; and if the chip-and-signature card is stolen, it's still vulnerable to fraud. However, when the U.K. switched to the EMV standard in 2005, counterfeit fraud decreased by 63%. 

The new standard is voluntary, and retailers can still accept payments with the magnetic stripe cards. However, major U.S. credit card issuers MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express established a deadline that took effect last year. Since then, retailers that had not upgraded to EMV systems became liable for fraudulent transactions if the card was EMV-equipped. If there is fraud when a magnetic stripe card is used, the bank is still responsible for the fraud. 

A flaw recently came to light where it may be possible for hackers to rewrite the card’s magnetic stripe code to make it appear to be a chipless card. This would allow them to gain access to and counterfeit cards. To combat this, retailers can encrypt transactions. There would be a cost to retailers for this added feature, however, when they upgrade their credit card machines. Basic EMV card processors can cost upwards of $1,000 per unit. 

While many mass retailers, such as Walmart, Target and Costco, have upgraded their card terminals, most U.S. retailers are not set up to accept EMV cards. Approximately 70% of U.S. cardholders currently own at least one EMV card. Now the retailers just have to catch up to consumers and the card-issuing banks.

Being Taken for a Ride – The Self-Driving Car

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September 15, 2016

By Marc Fogarty  

You’re comfortably in the passenger seat of a sedan on your way to the movies. You look to your left; the steering wheel is moving, but no one is sitting there. That’s got to be somewhat of an unsettling feeling, but it is edging closer to reality. 

Most major car companies are working on self-driving (aka autonomous) systems where sophisticated controls, sensors and GPS systems instantly interpret environmental obstacles to navigate a vehicle on a clear path.  


Google has done extensive testing on modified vehicles and has even designed a car that has no steering wheel or pedals. Google vehicles have logged more than one million test miles on public roads, and the company hopes to go to market with its autonomous cars by 2020. 


Self-driving cars have not been without incident. Google reports at least a dozen minor collisions; however, it claims in most cases the other driver was at fault. Also, a driver using the Tesla’s Autopilot service was killed in a collision with a tractor trailer. The crash is still under investigation. 


Vehicle codes in states were simply not written with self-driving cards in mind. However, several states have created legislation allowing the testing of self-driving cars on public roads. Several car makers and technology companies developed a recent coalition advocating for a single U.S. legal code on self-driving cars  


As with any technology-based system, data security becomes an issue. What safeguards will there be for the information someone’s car collects? Will hackers be able to take control of a driverless car? 

Public Opinion

There have been many surveys gauging consumers’ interest and comfort level with respect to self-driving cars. A 2013 survey of 1,500 people from 10 countries by Cisco Systems found that 57% would ride in a car controlled entirely by technology that does not require a human driver. The “X” factor, however, is what will be the consumer sticker price for such a car? 

Uber and the Steel City

Ride-sharing giant Uber announced a $300 million deal with Volvo to develop self-driving cars by 2021. This summer, using dozens of custom Volvo XC90 SUVs and Ford Fusions, the organization will initially offer free self-driving rides in Pittsburgh. The cars will have a safety person sitting at the wheel should a manual intervention become necessary. Pittsburgh officials have been supportive of Uber’s efforts, and the company has also received assistance from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics department. Along with the Uber’s agreement with Volvo, it also recently acquired Otto, a company developing self-driving trucks for commercial use.  

And more than 9,000 miles away, Singapore is now offering self-driving cabs developed by nuTonomy, a U.S.-based start-up. The cars will be specially equipped Renault and Mitsubishi electric vehicles. 

Societal Impact

Self-driving cars are clearly a disruptive technology. Experts predict everything from reshaping the employment landscape to decreased crime to increased urban sprawl. This may or may not come to pass. Hopefully, those flying cars from The Jetsons aren’t too far behind?   

Pfizer Bolsters Oncology Business with Medivation Acquisition

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August 23, 2016

By Amar Bhatkhandé  

Pfizer announced it will acquire San Francisco-based Medivation Inc., for $14 billion.  

Medivation’s portfolio includes the successful prostate cancer medication Xtandi, which may also have applications for both advanced breast cancer and for liver cancer. Medivation also has a pair of promising drugs in its R&D pipeline: another one for breast cancer (Talazoparib) and one for blood cancer (Pidilizumab). 

With this purchase, Pfizer is continuing its focus on taking a leadership position in oncology, which it considers one of its key product lines—some of the others being immunology, inflammation, cardio vascular, metabolic and neuroscience.  

Pfizer’s bid of $81.50 per share in cash far surpassed Sanofi’s April bid of $52.50 per share. Merck & Company, Gilead and Celgene were also thought to be interested in acquiring Medivation. 

Medivation was founded in 2004. The company’s Xtandi product has generated more than $2 billion in worldwide net sales since 2015 and is forecast to reach $5.7 billion in sales by 2020.  

This is Pfizer’s first major acquisition since its ill-fated attempt to purchase Allergan in April. The U.S. Treasury Department had blocked that deal citing it as a “tax inversion,” where a U.S. firm attempts to merge with a company in a country with a lower tax rate. 

The deal was approved by the boards of both companies, and Pfizer expects to complete the Medivation acquisition later this year.

Hyperloop to Debut in United Arab Emirates?

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August 23, 2016

By Marc Fogarty

When a metal sled sped down the football-length track in the Nevada desert at a 2.4 gravitational force in May 2016, the founders of Hyperloop One called it a “Kitty Hawk moment.”  

Originally conceived by Elon Musk, hyperloop is powered by passive magnetic levitation technology. Transportation pods will be enclosed in depressurized tubes; by eliminating friction and air resistance, designers expect hyperloop to reach speeds of more than 700 miles per hour. That could take people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes. While those speeds may seem unsettling to potential travelers, hyperloop developers liken it to riding in an elevator. It remains to be seen if hyperloop will be above ground, below ground, underwater or some combination. 

Hyperloop One is targeting 2019 to be able to move cargo and 2021 to move people. In fact, Hyperloop One and DP World, the third-largest terminal operator in the world, agreed to do an economic feasibility study on how to deploy the system at Dubai's Jebel Ali Port. DP World is interested in a possible submerged, floating hyperloop system to rapidly move cargo. 

There is widespread optimism that hyperloop will revolutionize travel not only by its speed, but by doing so without carbon emissions. However, hyperloop still faces a variety of challenges, including safety and land use rights. Furthermore, some estimates have pegged the LA to SF construction costs at anywhere from $6 billion to $100 billion. 

Hyperloop One is headed by venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, whose firm is a major funder of Uber. But  the Hyperloop project is a collaborative affair that includes other VC firms, transportation specialists, technology experts, dozens of engineers, and those with a political background, as well as hundreds of open source participants.  

To date, Hyperloop One has secured $120 million in funding. Pishevar has indicated that additional cash generated by Uber could go into hyperloop development. 


Facebook Not Taking the (Click) Bait

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August 19, 2016

By Amar Bhatkhandé  

Have you ever scrolled through social media and saw an irresistible headline like: “Young couple buys a house. You’ll never believe what they find in the attic!” You then click on the link and the article is different or woefully disappointing. 

That type of headline, where it withholds or gives misleading information, is called clickbait and Facebook wants to minimize it. The social media giant is taking significant steps by identifying thousands of phrases that may or may not be common clickbait headlines. It then uses a specially designed algorithm, similar to spam detection, that then places these stories less frequently or lower in readers’ newsfeeds. It can also determine possible clickbait by looking at how much time people spend reading an article, how quickly they unlike an article along with website traffic patterns. 

This move by Facebook comes on the heels of a report earlier this year that it suppresses conservative-leaning news from its trending topics. Facebook denied the news bias allegations. 

The clickbait initiative will impact content publishers eagerly trying to reach Facebook’s 1.7 billion users. They may have to adjust their content or look at using other social media platforms. It remains to be seen if native content, which is paid for by advertisers, would be similarly affected.


Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It’s Paying Big Dividends!

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August 18, 2016

By John Pennett  

It’s been 2 years since millions posted funny yet “chilling” videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. The Ice Bucket Challenge was created to raise money and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a degenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and kills approximately half of those diagnosed within 2 years. 

The challenge became a viral sensation during the summer of 2014. More than 17 million videos were posted, which were seen by nearly half a billion people. The challenge ultimately raised $220 million, most of which was designated for research to treat and cure the disease.  

Donations from the Ice Bucket Challenge led to the founding of Project MinE, a global gene sequencing initiative where scientists in 11 countries studied thousands of ALS patients. These scientists were able to identify a gene common among those with the disease: NEK1. This may help researchers develop a gene therapy to treat the disease as well as possibly improve the quality of life for those living with ALS. 

According to the ALS Association, this is not the first breakthrough using research dollars from the Ice Bucket Challenge. Last year, Johns Hopkins researchers discovered the protein TDP-43, an important marker of those with ALS.


The Augmented Reality of Pokémon Go

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August 17, 2016

By Amar Bhatkhandé  

Most of us are familiar with the term virtual reality (VR) where, through technology, someone enters a completely artificial environment. But there’s another type of reality that is asserting itself on the tech landscape: augmented reality (AR). 

What Is AR?

AR enhances one’s perception of reality by supplementing his or her experiences with help of computer-generated sensory inputs such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Dating back to the 1960s, AR is just now starting its march to the mainstream via hardware and software development, particularly in handheld devices. 

AR Uses

The biggest impact of AR is currently in gaming and sports. The current Pokémon Go craze is a great example of how AR can suddenly go mainstream with the right combination of hardware, software and imagination. Another AR example is the yellow “first-down” line seen not at the actual football games, but on television screens during game broadcasts (or, for those of us staying up late to watch the Olympics, the “world record” line leading/chasing/right on top of the swimmers). AR technology can be further developed for a wide range of practical applications—including architecture, health care, education and the military, to name a few. 


Because AR depends on someone’s device to record and analyze the environment, a major concern is privacy. Recording voluminous amounts of data can become an issue if proprietary/copyrighted information is captured. There are also data security issues should AR developers capture user information.  

The Future

We’ve only scratched the surface of AR. (While VR is expected to be a $30 billion industry by the end of this decade, AR is projected to reach $90 billion by 2020.) As the hardware and software get more powerful, there’s little doubt AR will become more prevalent in our daily lives.

EisnerAmper is an independent member of Allinial Global.
EisnerAmper is an independent member of EisnerAmper Global.