Technology, the American nightmare –

by bold-lichterman

We are used to talking about the United States as a benchmark in terms of technology. As soon as we approach IT subjects, we think of California, Silicon Valley, Las Vegas, GAFAM.

Our dazzled eyes are turned towards our allies (?) From across the Atlantic with each release of a new product. What user or computer scientist does not have an idyllic vision of what is happening…. in the US?

The reality, if we remove our “Google glasses” may appear much less charming and give us Europeans a hard time.

It is clear that the American dream can sometimes turn into a real “nightmare”.

When we arrived in NYC, we were far from imagining the problems we were going to encounter.

License plate recognition: the American puzzle

The plate recognition, very functional in Europe, becomes a big challenge in the USA: each state can have its own font (font) of characters, the numbers and letters are not standardized, you can have “MOM” on your car plate , have one at the front and rear, at the front only, only at the rear or even no plates at all in the case of a new vehicle. (some examples)

No barrier stops you at the entrance to the parking lot, which is often the same as the exit, due to lack of space in NYC.

Is the vehicle exiting or entering? Good question, to answer it, we stuffed the access routes with sensors.

During our tests, our system even printed a ticket when no vehicle entered the garage. It took us a while to figure out that the numbers on the “SUV” stamped ticket were the same as the t-shirt of the obese lady who walked into the parking lot.

Internet connection: did you say no service?

We had to review our entire model the day our sponsors asked us to forget about 100% Cloud and to think of a “stand alone” version. They confirmed to us that it is indeed not uncommon to have Internet service cuts of up to a week.

Explanation: The infrastructure in major American cities is old and poorly maintained. The Internet market is shared between a few operators and for $ 100 per month, you can be satisfied with a connection that is sometimes of poor quality.

Historically, the majority of the (cable) network has been set up for television, not for data. COMCAST is in a virtual monopoly situation and abuses its position. We have only recently started to see the beginnings of competition with Verizon, which offers ADSL and fiber offers.

An old-fashioned network, based on wired technology, antique routers, cables everywhere, loose, no diagrams, no detailed plans … this is what awaited us in the basements of beautiful buildings.

Electronic transactions: maximum anti-chip and fraud

One of our missions was to ensure a reduced fraud rate and cash control. Here again, we were faced with a completely different problem: even if we can pay by contact in some trendy shops, the fact remains that the United States is one of the countries with the rate of bank card fraud. reached great heights.

The “liability shift” which transfers since October 2015 the responsibility for fraud to the bank / merchant couple was quickly bypassed by the American banks which are doing rather well by transferring the responsibility themselves to a single member of the couple: the merchant .

A good portion of Americans have a smart card, but the pin code request function is mostly deactivated on payment terminals (as for operation in tolls). A way to get around the obligation to adopt the EMV standard by allowing transactions without entering a code – which is not in the culture of holders – who, in any case, do not want to hear about it given the number of cards they have.

The card is “swiped” at the merchant and the user signs the receipt, whether or not he is the real cardholder, before going out with his purchases.

Merchants, although convinced of the usefulness of the smart card, cannot resign themselves to making such investments for a use that they consider unsuitable for the culture of their customers. (see WallMart Visa Trial) The famous iron (“collector” today in Europe) can still be found at certain merchants.

Despite everything, whatever happens, we always have the leisure to pay with dollars, totally archaic, destructible currency, even with dollar bills (where the rest of the world uses coins), often in very bad shape. state.

Bank transactions: IBAN: what is this?

One of the functions requested by our client: to follow the monthly payments of the subscribed clients.

Strangely, Americans are large issuers of checks, for example for salaries (often weekly …), check cashing times are long, and many employees often even use discount companies to recover faster , the price of their wages by dropping a small percentage in passing.

When you have to deal with bank reconciliations, it’s surprising how far behind the American financial system is in establishing common rules so that you can reduce check processing in favor of safer and faster electronic transactions (see here).

Difficult to use transfers; we do have different elements (routing code etc ..) but no CRC checks as for the IBAN, in short, we are never sure to make the transfer to the right person.

Telecom: fake 4G?

To overcome the shortcomings of Internet service, we had thought of a mobile network.

When LTE (4G) came out, all operators invested in upgrading their network.

AT&T, which already had a network that operated in 2G and 3G, was not ready to invest again massively to make this upgrade.

Faced with this difficult situation, the AT&T marketing department thought a lot about the issue and especially read in detail what defined 4G. Since only a certain level of speed was mentioned and their 3G speed approached the defined speed of 4G, AT&T simply sold their 3G by calling it… 4G.

This marketing scam sets the tone for the tricks used to cover up technical delays with a proper makeover.

Electricity: a capacity divided by two

When you have servers or any other equipment installed in the US, you need to make sure that your devices will perform as well across the Atlantic as in Europe.

America, like Canada and Japan, has historically stayed on 110 volts for the sake of not making the huge investment in conversion as it was known in Europe in the 1960s.

The consequence is that, to have the same power as in 220, 2 times more amperage or larger cables are needed.

Often, cities, for the sake of economy, limit the amperage so as not to have cables too big and mount transformers in series, if one of them burns out, all the transformers connected in series blow. ! A bit like before the war …

To avoid voltage regulation problems on shared networks, Americans buy and use devices that are almost essential for them and that we hardly use, …… “inverters”.

Who has not happened to proudly bring back some electronic gadget to his children as a souvenir and to see it quite simply “toast” at the first connection in Europe?

Video formats: a big business?

Fortunately, we didn’t have to work on video.

If not long ago, the standard was still at NTSC (Never Twice The Same Color), TNT and its DVBT (Terrestrial) and DVBS (Satellite) formats finally provided a solution up to the task with fair licensing.

One can wonder how, then, the American industrialists were able to pull off the sleight of hand of having members of the government vote for the ATSC standard in order to have a new Pinay licensing rent at hand.

Satellite operators have understood this well and use DVBS.

These few examples show how America has not always been able to make the right technological choices.

The end justifying the means, if the American army and the scientific community use the metric system and 24-hour days, it is certainly not for nothing.

To succeed in our mission, we had to adapt, be more vigilant and flexible in order to remedy the delays and technical faults that we encountered.

New challenges and above all, the conviction that we may not have to be ashamed of being from old Europe. Old? …not that much.

pascal-bergerUniversity educated, specialist in CRM and Billing systems, particularly in the Telecom world in the days of deregulation (First Telecom, Atlantic Telecom), Pascal Berger naturally turned to the Internet and web applications.

Founded in 2005, Wapp creates tailor-made Cloud applications for its French and foreign customers.

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