Credit cards and TRIZ: an example on Altshuller's principles.

Semyon D. Savransky,
The TRIZ Experts,
Silicon Valley, California, USA

Genady L. Filkovsky and Alex Zakharov discussed in this journal the value of Altshuller's 40 inventive principles [see "Two views on the present and future of contradiction matrix and 40 principles", THE ANTI TRIZ-JOURNAL (Vol. 3, No. 5)]. The first author was surprised that research in this field is still active (see, e.g., recent Darrell Mann book) and cited Altshuller opinion (circa 1971) that the principles and matrix are worthless.

I disagree with Altshuller and Filkovsky in this case. Let me show on one example how useful the principles are.

Numerous WWW shops want to attract as many customers as possible but there are many barriers between them. Unfortunately customer cannot trust all of them and provide sensitive information (e.g., his or her credit card number) without risking to jeopardize his or her finances. Usually a credit card allows to perform unlimited number of transactions (well, the magnet strip in a card probably limits this number to about 100,000) and it is active for a few years. The card issuer also determines the amount of money the card holder can spend during a period of time (e.g. up to 50,000$ per month). The credit card information is very attractive for criminals and many such hackers use Internet to get such information. Newspapers are full of stories about stolen databases, cyber attacks on banks, etc.

Quite often customer does not spend the whole allowed amount of money and does not intend to purchase goods from a particular Internet shop many times. It sounds as a contradiction between customer, store and card issuer, isn't it? But due to TRIZ these players can apply Principle 26, Copying: "Instead of an unavailable, expensive, fragile object, use simpler and inexpensive copies." Credit card (more precisely the work to clean up its misuse) is quite expensive for the card issuer and holder. But the card issuer can give its holder a one-time electronic replica of credit card with a short expiration date (let's say within 2 weeks), with a limited amount of money to spent (let's say 50$) and with a credit card number that is different from the original one (i.e., generated randomly). This replica can be used exactly as a real credit card in Internet transactions. The Internet shop will receive information that can be used only one time in this case and the customer is strongly protected from crime. This TRIZ idea was implemented recently in the Virtual Account Numbers program by Citibank and the old principle 26 works very well.

A note by the Editor:

The editor does not share the above views by Semyon Savrasky. To view the editor's objections to the article, please press here.