Forget Tickets, Get On Public Transportation With A Ring

While public transportation can be a godsend while traveling, losing your public transportation pass or ticket is not. We’ve all misplaced our bus or metro pass at least a few times in life, and no matter where you are in the world the feeling is always the same.

That changes now.

Thanks to some very intelligent engineering students at MIT, there’s a new device that may forever solve the problem of misplaced transit cards: the Sesame Ring. Built with an embedded RFID tag, it allows you to simply tap to an RFID-based fare reader and get on board. Genius.

The ring currently works with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority in the Boston area, but with the technology that the group has developed there’s no limit to how it could potentially be used. Just imagine a ring that you could re-program for any transit system wherever you are. Now that is smart.

For more details, check out the Kickstarter page for the project.

Gadling Gear Review: Zippo Stainless Steel Wallet

Last week we reviewed an excellent backpack from Tumi that featured a pocket that is specially designed to protect against the theft of data via Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. RFID chips are now being incorporated in our credit cards, smartphones, passports and other commonly used items in order to pass information while in close proximity to a device designed to read them. But less-scrupulous people have found a way to hack those chips to gain access to that information, which has added another challenge to keeping our data and identities safe.

Zippo, the company that is so well known for its iconic lighters, has designed a new wallet that is built to protect against RFID theft. The wallet features a stainless steel outer shell that suppresses the signal sent from an RFID chip. This makes it much more difficult for thieves to detect the signal, let alone hack it and obtain access to the data contained within. Considering the fact that so many new credit cards are being issued with these chips, you can see how this could be a very useful feature.

The stainless steel shell doesn’t just serve as an extra layer of protection against high-tech identity theft; however, it also gives this product its own unique look. Zippo’s wallet certainly isn’t like any other that I’ve ever seen and it garnered more than a few comments when I’ve taken it out in public. It has an attractive and distinctive look about it that caught the attention of just about everyone who has spotted it, with most asking where I had gotten it. It has a certain masculine appeal that is uniquely its own and makes it a great gift idea for the man who has everything.Inside, the wallet has enough slots to accommodate up to six credit cards and includes a designated window that specifically allows for quick access to a drivers license or other form of identification. It also has a money pocket, although unlike a traditional wallet, the bills need to be folded in order to make them fit. For my needs, this is plenty of storage capacity, but if you’re one of those people whose wallet is a bit like a mobile office, you may be put off by the minimal amount of space available. There isn’t a lot of room to stuff business cards or receipts for example and if you prefer to carry a lot of cash, it may be tough to squeeze it all into the relatively small bill holder. I’m the type of person who keeps his bills organized in order by ascending value, which allows me to quickly find $1, $5 or $20 bills. But it isn’t possible to do that with this wallet, which I found to be a minor annoyance.

Carrying around a stainless steel wallet also takes a bit of getting use to. Obviously, it is far more rigid than a typical leather wallet and there were times when I’d sit down on a hard surface, only to be reminded of this fact. It definitely has a different feel in your pocket, although after using it for a week or two, it quickly became an afterthought. But the metal outer-shell does provide a level of protection for the contents of the wallet that you don’t get elsewhere and you won’t worry about having one of your credit cards snap when you sit down on it.

The Zippo stainless steel wallet carries a price tag of $49.95, which is actually a very reasonable price for a product like this. I’ve certainly paid more for a traditional leather wallet in the past and those tend to all look alike and offer no form of protection from RFID hacking. This wallet certainly has its own look and appeal, and if you don’t mind its minimalist approach to how much it can carry, you’ll likely be very happy with what Zippo has created here. Unlike leather, the stainless steel outer shell isn’t likely to wear out over time either, which means you’re practically buying a wallet for life. This is a great new spin on a product that most men carry with them every day and I think it’ll be a hit with its intended audience.

[Photo: Zippo]

Gadling Gear Review: Tumi Ticon Leather Backpack

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips have become increasingly popular in recent years, with the inexpensive technology finding its way into everything from our credit cards and cellphones to passports. The chips allow for the sharing of information over a short range making it possible to make purchases with just the tab of a card or to pass through a security checkpoint more quickly. But the technology has also shown a penchant for being easily hacked, allowing someone to obtain a host of data simply by scanning for nearby RFID-enabled items. This has led to a rise in identify theft while consumers scramble to protect themselves from yet another threat.

Enter ID LOCK from Tumi, a company well known for creating high-end luxury bags and luggage for the seasoned traveler. When the designers at Tumi saw the threat of identity theft via RFID hacking becoming a bigger issue, they put their heads together to come up with a way to defend their customers from this new form of high-tech pickpocketing. The result is ID LOCK, a specially designed pocket on Tumi bags that helps to prevent RFID signals from passing through, making it nearly impossible for anyone to capture private information from the chips.

The secret to keeping your data secure while on the go is in the fabric of the ID LOCK pocket itself. Tumi has woven metal threads into the cloth, forming a barrier that prevents RFID signals from getting in or out. The pocket is easily identifiable on any Tumi bag as it is always a distinct color of red. Placing your passport, credit cards, mobile phone or any other item packing an RFID chip inside the zippered pocket instantly dampens its signal, greatly reducing the chance of anyone tampering with your information.The ID LOCK pocket is an example of how Tumi is always looking for ways to innovate in an attempt to make their products better while also providing travelers with peace of mind in the process. It is a welcome addition to the company’s wonderful Ticon leather backpack, although it is just one small part of what makes this bag stand out from the crowd. In terms of carry-on packs for the typical traveler, this is a backpack that delivers everything you could possibly need in a compact, durable and attractive package.

The pack includes more storage than you would think possible at first glance. The main interior pocket is spacious enough to carry most things you would need on a typical flight, including books, magazines, headphones, an iPod and more. Tumi says that it has been designed to support notebooks with up to a 12-inch screen, but my 13.1-inch MacBook Air had no problems slipping into the laptop sleeve as well. A dedicated pocket just for the iPad is a nice touch too and adding a tablet to the load didn’t make the Ticon feel over burdened in any way. A zippered external pocket provides another versatile and easy to reach storage option, while two side pockets, each with magnetic closures, are suitable for small water bottles. Pen loops, a key clasp and an internal card pocket help round out the pack’s other features.

Listing the storage options for a Tumi bag is a bit like reviewing which items come pre-installed on a BMW. They sound good on paper but they do very little to convey the true quality of the overall product. Quite simply put, the Ticon leather backpack is one of the finest bags that I have ever seen. It is lightweight, incredibly well put together and designed with frequent travelers in mind. The pack is built from extremely high-quality leather that will likely look just as good in ten years as it does today. The Ticon has a timeless ascetic about it that somehow manages to appear both modern and classic at the same time, and while using the bag over the past few weeks I’ve had numerous people comment about how much they like it. Several of them I even had to run off with a stick as they eyed the pack a bit too longingly.

The Ticon is versatile enough that it certainly can be put to good use even when you’re not traveling. For example, I used it as a commuter pack for a couple of weeks and found that it served well in that capacity. I occasionally felt like I could have used a bit more room, but overall it handled the job admirably. Ladies looking to ditch their purse when they head out on the town will find the pack to be a great alternative as well, providing all the capacity needed for a night out.

Of course, considering the price of this bag you’ll definitely want to maximize how often you put it to use. Tumi is well known for making high-end products and that is certainly reflected in their pricing. The Ticon leather backpack comes with a luxury sized price tag of $595, which puts it beyond the means of most consumers. But if you’re someone who appreciates very high quality travel gear and has the cash to spend on such products, you certainly won’t be disappointed with what Tumi has delivered here. The Ticon really is in a class all its own, deftly melding form and function into a beautiful package. Throw in the added benefit of the ID LOCK and you have a product that will serve you well on numerous travel adventures for years to come.

[Photo Credit: Tumi]

Turn Your Phone Into A Subway Card

If you’ve ever visited one of the more technologically advanced Asian metropolises like Tokyo or Hong Kong, you’re probably already familiar with the easy-to-use technology called RFID. It works like this – instead of paying cash for a bus or subway fare, you hold up a simple plastic card (or a chip embedded in your cellphone) to the ticket gate, and voila! You’ve paid and gotten on your way without pulling a dime out of your wallet.

Wouldn’t it be great if that same technology worked back in the USA, dear reader? Well, now you too can embed an RFID reader inside your fancy iPhone, thanks to a little creative hacking and a DIY company called Adafruit Industries. Using a relatively inexpensive tool kit sold by the company, they’ve put together the nifty video above showing how to install your very own RFID card for use with your iPhone. Not all cities have RFID payment systems, but an increasing number of American cities accept it on their mass transit systems. Care to give it a try? Check out the video above for a tutorial.

Golden Gate Bridge to eliminate toll takers – go 100% electronic

After replacing as many people as possible with robots in manufacturing, the good old toll booth worker is the next victim to be replaced. Starting next year, toll booth workers on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge will all be removed in favor of RFID toll sensors and license plate reading cameras.

The toll collectors had been a common sight on the bridge since it opened in 1937, but the district board of directors decided in a 13-2 vote to save $19.2 million over the next ten years.

In the new system, vehicles can use the FasTrak transponder system, or pay by mail after their license plate has been identified.

As is common with government systems, the FasTrak toll lanes do not work with out of state toll systems, including EZ-Pass and iPass. Also, since rental vehicles are often from out of state, your car rental firm may charge the base toll, along with significant surcharges.

The toll operator does plan to expand the retail availability for FasTrak, so when the new system is introduced in 2012, tourists planning to drive across the bridge may want to invest in a FasTrak transponder of their own or hope that their rental car company forgets about the toll (fat chance).

[Via: Engadget]