How do we process what the future holds while massive outside forces affect our personal and professional lives? We were just beginning to get a peek at what life might look like after spending the past three months in our basements dealing with COVID-19 when our country has erupted in pain and racial tension over the senseless killing of an unarmed citizen. Violence against demonstrators by police and armed military forces followed, resulting in huge protests and further disruption of people’s lives and neighborhood businesses. And now we’re seeing new warnings of a potential relapse of death and disease from this coronavirus resulting from opening our economy up too quickly and from too many people ignoring the guidelines required to keep themselves and others safe from this virus. This misguided attitude seems to be that we can simply will this nightmare to be over.
Perhaps focusing on the few things that are closest to what normal used to feel like is one way to start. For me, that is my family and my work. Fortunately for me, that has been easier than for many other people I know. My work routine has been unchanged since I started working for what was called the Smart Card Alliance in 2002, before we rebranded the organization as the Secure Technology Alliance in 2018. I worked out of my home office back then and have continued to work remotely for these last 18 years. I began working with Cathy Medich, Director, Strategic Programs, in 2002, and the two of us have developed a strong trust relationship and mutual appreciation for each other over this time.
Together, we have witnessed many changes in the security markets this organization serves. When we started together, there were no smart cards in the U.S., only in Europe and parts of Asia. We partnered with the federal government to be the first to adopt smart card ID credentials and then led the world development effort to add contactless chips to millions of electronic passports. Smartphones like the Blackberry and the iPhone were introduced in 1999 and 2007 respectively and changed the way we think of mobile phones for anything but talking – turning them into devices equipped with secure SIMs and built-in secure elements for mobile wallets and mobile commerce (and pretty soon mobile driver’s licenses). We were present when Visa announced it was bringing EMV chip technology to the U.S. credit and debit card market in 2011, soon followed by Mastercard, American Express and Discover. The EMV migration resulted in replacing more than 800 million magnetic stripe cards in about five years.
The future may look a bit cloudy, but one thing I have learned is that innovation never stops. Throughout my 18 years at the Alliance, we have lived through terrorist attacks, wars, recessions, mass shootings, and other unexpected disasters that have shaken our confidence and changed our grasp on what “normal’ feels like – but none of these has ever slowed us down for very long. Innovation will always be the green shoots that break through the despair and uncertainty and get us back on course. Together, we can get through any obstacle.
Executive Director, Secure Technology Alliance