Picture of a Credit Card Transaction

The following is the simplest infographic I could find of how a credit card transaction works from UniBul’s Money Blog. If  you go to the page their are actually a couple of other infographics on credit card transactions.

a-credit-card-payment-is-so-incredibly-simple-until-you-take-a-closer-look[1].png

Here is the prose version:

Betty swipes her card and her account number, the expiration date, the billing address’s zip code, and the CVV code is sent to something called a front-end processor (in the above example Authorization Step 2 it is shown as Master Card but this is most often farmed out to a private company). The front-end processor’s job is to quickly check that Betty’s card has enough funds to cover the payment. It forwards the information contained on her card to a network of the relevant card association (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, etc.) that figures out the issuing bank the card came from. Her transaction now moves to a separate payment processor representing the issuing bank, the one whose name is on Betty’s card and manages her account. Once her bank has verified the validity of the information and checked for sufficient credit, a signal goes back the other way. The bank tells its processor to give the all clear to the association, that conveys it back to the front-end processor so that Farmer John and the acquiring bank can be satisfied that Betty has enough funds to cover the oranges. Within seconds Farmer John is notified of the approval.

Betty is walking away with her oranges. However, the payment system is not done. Farmer John has not been paid for delivering the oranges. For that to occur Farmer John must send a follow-up request to his acquiring bank, usually in a batch of receipts at day’s end. The acquiring bank will pay Farmer John for those receipts, but it will need to place a request for reimbursement from the issuing bank, using an automatic clearinghouse (ACH) network managed by either the regional Federal Reserve banks or the Electronic Payments Network of the Clearing House Payments Company, a company owned by eighteen of the world’s biggest commercial banks. Still, Betty’s bank won’t release the funds if it’s not convinced that it was really she who bought the oranges. So before it even gets the request for payment, its antifraud team has been hard at work analyzing the initial transaction, looking for red flags and patterns of behavior outside her ordinary activity. If the team is not sure about who was swiping the card, it will call Betty’s cell and home phone numbers, text her, and e-mail her, trying to get her to confirm that it really was her at the Farmers Market. Once her bank is satisfied that all is aboveboard, it will release the ACH settlement payment and register a debit on her credit card account. The money then flows to Farmer John’s acquiring bank, which credits Farmer John’s account. This process typically takes up to three business days to complete.

All this processing is not done for free. Each entity in bold red letters takes a cut of Betty’s transaction which usually totals between 1 and 3 percent of the sale. This may not seem like a lot but when you take into account all sales world wide…

 

Advertisements

Picture of Blockchain Transaction

I have been reading “The Age of Cryptocurrancy” by Paul Yigma and Michael J. Casey. They provide this simple to understand image of how a blockchain operates.

blockchain explained.jpg

A Practical Example of Farmer John selling Betty some oranges for $1.50

Betty goes to the Saturday morning farmers market in her town and wants to purchase $1.50 worth of oranges from Farmer John. Betty will use a cryptocurrency for this transaction (Bitcoin). Farmer John presents Betty his payment address as a quick response code:

Bill's address

Betty uses a Bitcoin wallet on her smartphone to scan the code. She is presented a screen where she can enter an amount to send to John’s address. She types ‘$1.50’ and presses send. A moment later John’s tablet notifies him that there is an incoming payment pending, which is not confirmed yet. About ten minutes later, the payment is finalized when it gets confirmed.

Why 10 minutes? Will be left for another discussion.

Under the hood

1) The Payment Transaction:
The software on Betty’s smartphone checks whether she has a sufficient balance and then creates a payment transaction. This transaction is composed of three pieces of information: Which “coins” to spend, the recipient, and a signature.

Betty’s wallet is connected to other participants in the network. The wallet passes the transaction to all of them, who in turn pass it on to all of their connections. Within a few seconds, every participant in the network has received notification of Betty’s payment order. Each and every participant checks whether the listed “coins” exist, and whether Betty is the rightful owner.

2) Confirmation:
So far, Betty’s payment is only a promise, because it is still unconfirmed.

To change that, some network participants, which we’ll call miners, work on confirming these transactions. The miners grab all the unconfirmed transactions and try to pack them into a set. When their set doesn’t fit the requirements, they reshuffle it and try again. At some point, somebody finds a set with the right properties: A valid block.

Just as with the transactions before, they send this block to all their connections, who in turn forward it to theirs. Everyone checks the work (to confirm that the block follows the rules) and when satisfied, they apply the included transactions to their own ledger: The transactions get executed and the “coins” that were used by Betty get transferred to Farmer John as ordered by the transactions. Betty’s transaction (and all the others) is now confirmed. Betty can now eat her oranges and Farmer John can now spend his “coins”.

Miners are compensated for processing transaction through the issuance of newly minted cryptocurrency coins by the blockchain. Neither Betty nor Farmer John incur any cost for this transaction.

Blockchain

Blockchain

Blockchain

I have been aware of blockchain technology since 2010 when I came across an article on the subject, however, I was slow to realize the extent of the possibilities of the technology until mid-2015 when I started reading up on the topic.

At its core blockchain is relatively easy to understand. The blockchain is a public ledger where transactions are recorded and confirmed anonymously. It’s a record of events that is shared between many parties. More importantly, once information is entered, it cannot be altered. So the blockchain is a public record of transactions.

The blockchain was initially created to track the transactions (purchase/selling) of cryptocurrancies but it can be used for much more. Here are some examples:

Ownership Trading – The technology can be used to track any type of digital asset be that tickets, merchandise (digital down load of software, music), products, subscriptions among many others. See Peertracks

File Storage – Peer to Peer file sharing networks removes the need for centralized databases and heavy storage areas. IPFS (Planetary File System) – an innovative protocol is complimenting this big change. See  Storj

Voting, Authorization, and Authentication. An increasing number of organizations and political parties have proposed the creation of a blockchain-based system to build a fairer and more transparent voting environment. See Factom

The list of projects is endless. See below for some applications in FinTech:

UKF_web_dash11.jpg

 

Copying a Website to Your Local Hard Drive

CaptureSince its inception more than 20 years ago LWDD has maintained a custom web site. Where “custom” means custom html coding and scripting that meant its been difficult and costly to maintain. The website is hosted offsite and edited through a custom application.

We have been working on development of a new web page based on WordPress that will soon go live. In preparation, I had to make a copy of our old web site for posterity and found WinHTTracker Website Copier  a free and simple application to get the job done.

After installation a copy is just a few keystokes away. Start the application click next.
winhttracker

Create a new project and specify the location on your local drive, click next.
HTTracker2

 

Specify the address of the website you want to copy, next.
winhttracker3

 

You will get some other options but in most cases you will not need them, finish.
winhttracker4

The website will be copied to your local drive.
winhttracker5

The website is now copied locally. Go to the location where the website was copied and you will find an index.html. When clicked you will be able to view your copied website.

winhttracker6

Benefits of IT Outsourcing

Capture

Studies have found that lower overall cost is a popular reason for hiring an IT outsourcing company. The latest evidence of this comes from a survey from Nimsoft / EMA of medium and large size companies, senior managers and leaders. This investigation revealed that 41% of participants named “reduce cost” as the most important factor is selecting to partner with an IT outsourcing company. The majority of outsourcing contracts arise from the need to achieve a higher return on investment, so this result is not too strange. Some of the other 11 reasons listed on the report are described below.

1. Improve Technology

Technological performance influences the final result. Old obsolete programs and hardware limit the potential of any company. Knowing this, many it leaders opt to bring in an IT outsourcing company to provide an analysis of the current system. Many of these outsourcing services are conducted using the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) guidelines that represent the leading document of best practices in the IT field. These international guidelines explain how to catalog, evaluate, and adjust IT systems for maximum efficiency and power.

You may ask yourself, why not have in-house staff apply ITIL standards? Well, it is certainly possible to carry out an ITIL in-house, but this route often poses problems of labor and productivity. IT outsourcing services can normally perform this task faster, since they have experience working with companies in different industries. In conjunction with in-depth research, this experience allows IT outsourcing services to understand what solutions work best for your particular situations.

2. Flexible Productivity

Although ITIL analysis is a key outsource offering specific projects are also welcome. If the system crashes or you need additional bodies to drive a rebound in labor, outsourcing services are ready to help make your organization more flexible and better able to take on additional projects. Finally, an IT outsourcing company can also develop custom applications to improve overall operations.

3. Improved Efficiency

Maintaining IT system can be a burden. Many organizations are perpetually responding to problems without the time and resources to plan and optimizing their organizational IT setting, outsourcing IT can often produce greater organizational efficiency.

Don’t pass up this benefit if you already have an in-house IT Department. In fact, IT workers often revel in the incorporation of an outsourcing company, since by doing so it allows them to focus largely on the strategic evolution of IT, rather than devote most of their time to putting out fires.

4. Focus on Key Objectives

IT outsourcing services can be quickly completed tasks that otherwise would have required many hours. In this way, the association with an IT outsourcing company can free your employees to tune into key business processes and objectives.

Improved of efficiency, enhanced technology, and greater flexibility are just some of the reasons why IT leaders consider collaborating with IT outsourcing services. However, for the majority of business leaders, decrease cost remains the number one motivation.

Juan Tobar, IT Manager

Fiber or Coaxial

Capture

Current and emerging technologies are requiring faster Internet connections that help users to run multimedia applications, VoIP, and other applications that cannot function properly without a high speed Internet connection.  As a result, there are many different types of Internet connections that have evolved since the initial dial-up access including fiber optic and cable Internet access. As the new IT Manager for LWDD one of the issues I am working on is evaluating our internet and network speed and considering all options for better and cheaper service.

Fiber or Cable not Fiber vs. Cable
When considering these two options the question you should be asking is what place do each of these products have in your organization. Which is better does not apply as the products are as different as apples and oranges.

With fiber you will get a dedicated switch and fiber from your ISPs node to your door. With cable you share fiber and have some length of cable from the curb to your door. For a detailed explanation of Comcast HSI (hybrid fiber-coax) network take a look at:

ATTACHMENT A: COMCAST CORPORATION DESCRIPTION OF CURRENT NETWORK MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Currently, we have 4.5 Mbit data and 1.5 Mbit VOIP over 3 T1 fiber from a major service provider in our area for which we pay $1,500. Although speed test can vary from moment to moment  here are the results of some of our tests:

TEST DOWN UP
CableTest 2.7 2.2
CharterComm 1.44 0.45
SpeedOfMe 2.58 3.79
SpeedtestNET 1.85 4.06
VerizonTest 3.15 4.23
Average 2.34 2.95

We examined a number of other fiber-to-the-door ISPs and the costs were similar:

10 Mbit Fiber $1,000/month
20Mbit Fiber $1,200/month

Comcast Business Class advertises that its network can perform at rates of up to 100 Mbit down and 20 Mbit up at a cost of about $250/month. Here are the results of the speed test:

TEST DOWN UP
CableTest 12.5 2.5
CharterComm 48.18 18.96
SpeedOfMe 4.47 15.17
SpeedtestNET 44.39 13.44
VerizonTest 105.65 21.2
Average 43.04 14.25

As we can see the variability of fiber throughput both up and down is much more stable than the hybrid fiber-coax. However, on average we still get much more bang for the buck with Comcast Business Class. Comcast service varies greatly from area to area so this solution may not work for you but at these prices it is worth taking a look.

This does not eliminate our fiber connection as we need a backup in case Comcast goes down. Many fiber ISPs offer discounts for lines used as backup. In addition we will be exploring a simple DSL solution as backup.

Juan Tobar, IT Manager

Things I learned at the ESRI User Conference

Sunrise
ArcGIS API for Silverlight
  • Includes improved security, integrated with Visual Studio, new tool for querying, and edit tracking.
  • Stuff you will need: ArcGIS Viewer for Silverlight (Application builder, configurable viewer, extensibility kits), API for ArcGIS Silverlight, and Silverlight
  • Programming is done through VB/C# and XAMLs
ArcGIS Flex Viewer
  • Includes a new application builder that is much easier to use than previous versions.
  • Users can easily configure and deploy apps without programming.
  • Stuff you will need: Flash Player, SDK either Adobe Flex 4.6 or Apache 4.8 or later, Download API (http://links.esri.com)
  • Programming Language is Action Script and Javascript (mostly used in HTML wrapper)
  • Based on our experience with C#.NET Silverlight is our preferred option.
  • In this new environment RegGSS would fork into: A General Support Tool for GIS Professionals using ArcMap and A Spatial Decision Support System for Permit Review Staff using Silverlight.
ArcGIS Workflow Manager
  • Could replace the work distribution and history tracking functions in our custom coded Data Processing Center
  • Could replace the spatial notifications functions in our custom coded Early Notification Systems.
  • Regulatory data entry workflows are simple compared to the complex workflows that the tool can support. LiDAR to DEM processing would be able to use more of the workflow capabilities.
ArcGIS Data Reviewer
  • Could replace custom python coded QA/QC checks.
  • Workflow Manager and Data Reviewer separate data entry and QA/QC into two distinct functions implementation would require a paradigm shift for Regulation where data entry and QA/QC are preformed concurrently.
Python Map Automation
  • Additional functionality being added but ESRI does not want all ArcObject mapping functions converted to Python.
  • Works by modifying elements of a template.mxd thus requires graphic objects to be manipulated to have unique names.
  • Could replace some custom C# code in our Early Notification Systems, Area of Interest Reports, and MyApplications
  • Much sample code available at http://esriurl.com/4598…6465
Collector App
  • Could replace the RegGSS Report a Digitizing Errors/Omissions that allows reviewers to digitize/submit a correction.
  • High potential use for those folks that are often in the field: Environmental Resource Compliance, Everglades Regulation.
  • ESRI Staff stated they have no plans for COGO functions to be migrated to collector app.
Parcel Fabric
  • This new feature class brings highly needed flexability and spatial accuracy to COGOed features.
  • Currently, when COGOing metes and bounds are not preserved, and we are sometimes forced to move COGOed features for cartographic reasons. Parcel fabric solves these problems by allowing features to be shifted while preserving the underying COGOed data.
  • Regulatory Conservation Easements and Land Management COGOed parcels should be migrated to this feature data set.
Github
  • Github is a version control system that ESRI is using to upload sample application code in all flavors: flex, javascript, silverlight.