by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: Curtis Chong is second to none in his knowledge of technology and his ability to write about it. He is president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science and works for the Iowa Department for the Blind as the director of field operations and access technology. Here is what he has to say about the latest incarnation of the iBill money reader:
It never ceases to amaze me how many people believe that for the blind the independent management of paper money is a daunting task. I have been totally blind since I was born, and I have been using paper money ever since I was able to scrape enough together to change ten dimes into a dollar bill. It never even occurred to me that I shouldn't be handling paper currency simply because I couldn't see it.
Of course everyone who is blind has run into those situations where someone hands you a bill, and you have no way of knowing what it is. Have you ever been standing at a bus stop and had a fellow passenger ask you if you had change for a five? Before currency identifiers came on the scene, a blind person had to trust that indeed he or she was being given a five-dollar bill.
The problem becomes more acute if you are selling items to customers over the counter. My first real job was the operation of a newsstand at an airport. People handed me paper money all the time, and there were many occasions when I had to trust that I was being given a five, ten, or twenty-dollar bill. I am happy to report that only in a very small number of cases did someone actually try to deceive me.
How is this different today? Aside from the fact that more business now seems to be conducted using credit or debit cards, a number of devices now on the market help the blind identify paper currency. Those of you who use the Apple iPhone can use the $10 Money Reader program developed by Looktel, which identifies American and foreign paper currency with incredible ease. However, if you don't have an iPhone and are looking for affordable technology to help you identify American paper currency, have you considered the iBill®, developed and sold by Orbit Research?
On September 18, 2012, Orbit Research announced the availability of the new iBill, which is priced at $119. When the original iBill was released in late 2009 for $99, I thought then that the company had a real winner. Back then other currency identifiers were priced over $300, and they were too large—so large, in fact, that they could not fit in your pocket. The original iBill, on the other hand, was light, small, and priced under $100. Moreover, it could speak, beep, or vibrate; and people who were deaf and blind could use it.
Often, when companies extol the virtues of their products, my skepticism kicks in, and I choose to wait until I can verify the company's assertions through personal experience. In the case of the iBill, Orbit Research claimed that it was able to identify paper currency in less than a second and that it was better than 99.9 percent accurate. In my experience the iBill has never misidentified paper currency; the worst thing that happens is that you get a message which says "error," which means that you should try reading the currency again, and this happens so rarely that I can't remember the last time it happened to me. For the hundreds of times I have asked the iBill to read paper currency, it has always come through in less than a second.
As good as the iBill was back in late 2009, two problems were frequently reported. First, some people thought that the iBill needed an earphone jack to support private announcements about currency denominations. Second, while it was very easy to insert newer currency into the reading slot, older paper money would often not slide in quite so easily, making the reading experience more than a little frustrating. I am pleased to report that both of these problems have been quite handily solved with the second generation of the iBill. Moreover, the new iBill comes with other improvements as well.
* The buttons on the new iBill are recessed so that they cannot be inadvertently pressed when it is in a purse or pocket.
* The new iBill has an earphone jack, meaning that you can now have your currency read out loud without other people listening (an earphone can be obtained from Orbit Research).
* A new and improved reading slot makes it easier to insert older currency.
* The volume has been enhanced so that it can speak louder than ever.
The bottom line for me is that, even though the price of the new iBill is $20 more than the original, it is still well worth the price—that is, if you are looking for a reliable, long-lasting, and durable currency identifier. I know that those of you who use the iPhone will tell me that you have an app that is far less expensive than the iBill. Yes, this is true. But, if you are not one of those people who have been fortunate enough to afford the iPhone, the iBill is there for you—and at an affordable price.
The iBill can be purchased directly from Orbit Research through its website: <http://www.orbitresearch.com>. For more information contact Orbit Research, 3422 Old Capitol Trail, Suite 585, Wilmington, Delaware 19808, Phone: (888) 606-7248; email <[email protected]>.
Comments From Orbit Research
Orbit Research would like to thank our customers for providing invaluable feedback that enabled us to make the new model even easier to use than the original one. We believe this model will also be more user-friendly for seniors. We have also made its design sleeker and rounded to make it even more convenient to carry in a pocket or purse. A ring now comes installed for attaching it to a key-ring or lanyard. A custom-designed leather case is also available, providing protection and the ability to clip on to a belt or purse strap. The unit is fully upgradable to accommodate new banknote designs. We offer a thirty-day money-back satisfaction guarantee and back the product with a one-year warranty covering manufacturing defects.