Monday, September 1, 2014

'Nobody Freaking Cares'? With iPhone 6, Apple Makes NFC A Must-Have Mobile Payments Feature

9/01/2014 @ 9:59AM

'Nobody Freaking Cares'? With iPhone 6, Apple Makes NFC A Must-Have Mobile Payments Feature

A tiny chip in the upcoming iPhone 6 will bring Apple’s smartphone the ability to use near-field communication (NFC) tech for the first time. With the cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth radios already included, it might seem redundant to add yet another — this one with a range of just a few inches. Odder still, NFC capability is hardly state of the art; Android phones have been offering it for 3 years already. It feels like a case of Apple coming late to the party, but it’s really much more. Without NFC, the iPhone wouldn’t be able to serve as a very good electronic wallet. And reports from Bloomberg and Re/code suggest Apple is going to make a big push around paying with your phone when it launches its new smartphone next week. If so, it will mark the end of a long, strange trip and perhaps the beginning of the true era of mobile payments.

Nobody freaking cares?

Back in 2011, then COO of Square Keith Rabois couldn’t hide his dislike for the fledgling technology. “I’ve never met a single merchant in the U.S. who says I want this NFC thing,” he said. And at the time, few merchants were equipped to read NFC chips, whether they were built into smartphones or the few credit cards that had them. Google’s Wallet, based around a handful of Android phones and NFC, went nowhere in the payments space. The headline here notes NFC was mocked by the expression “Nobody Freaking Cares” but often the middle word was less polite.

Fast forward to today, however, and the landscape already looks different. As I wrote back in May, the U.S. is preparing for the biggest change in credit cards in decades. The move to chip-based, so-called EMV cards has had merchants across the country replacing their readers. While not every new reader will support NFC, many of them do. And as merchants transition away from accepting the old school credit-card swipe, you’re likely to find that inserting your card is a small but real annoyance.

Smartphones go from being the inconvenient way to pay to an easier one once you can just tap them on the terminal. Credit cards with NFC chips, like Mastercard PayPass are similar, but few merchants are issuing that type of card. And, amazingly, one Chase card I have went from being NFC-enabled in its pre-EMV chip form to losing the NFC when they recently mailed me the EMV-equipped card. It’s this kind of customer unfriendly behavior that gives Apple and Google the opening they need.

Waiting such a long time

For its part, Apple didn’t follow Google into the e-wallet market back in 2011 for a lot of reasons. First, it saw the lack of merchant support for the enabling technologies as a roadblock it couldn’t plow through. Google hoped through sheer force of will it would be able to, but Apple picks its fights differently. And the time wasn’t yet ripe. Second, there was the issue of critical mass. Back then, Apple had perhaps 300 million credit cards on file thanks to iTunes/AppStore accounts. That number was more than Amazon or Paypal, according to Business Insider, but not by much. Today, Apple is believed to have more than 800 million credit cards on file — more than twice what Amazon and Paypal have combined. The ability to enable a digital wallet with existing credit information removes another point of friction for customers.

Third, back then the only way Apple had to secure your e-wallet was some sort of passcode lock. It knew from experience that most people were selecting codes like 1-2-3-4 and 2-5-8-0 — if they used one at all. That kind of “security” would doubtless have led to enough breeched wallets that the customer experience wouldn’t have been very good. With the advent of TouchID in the iPhone 5s, however, security can literally be a fingertip away. It’s all-but certain that the only way to use your Apple “iWallet,” or whatever it’s dubbed, will be via TouchID. If you phone is stolen, the thief will have essentially no ability to compound your misery by using your money too.

Fourth, there is just the matter of timing. For whatever reasons, Apple didn’t believe people were ready to pay that way back in 2011. (Google learned Apple was mostly right.) Today, nearly 15% of Starbucks customers pay with their phones and far more use them for mobile banking of one type or another. Trips to the ATM to deposit checks have moved to iOS and Android for many.

A perfect storm

What you wind up with then, is a confluence of: technology proliferation among merchants and phone owners, a greater chance for consumer acceptance, and a moment where paying by cards is about to become just a bit more annoying. Throw in another major factor — the omnipresence of the smartphone — and it’s easy to understand, “Why now?” Consider that the majority of Americans not only own smartphones, they are perpetually using them for something. When paying with a phone was proposed initially, many questioned the relevance: “I still need to carry my wallet, why is this better?” “Pulling out a card and swiping is easy enough.”

But look at how things have changed. A startup called Coin has been overwhelmed by interest in its magic credit-card that lets you store multiple cards in just a single device. The utility of not having to carry a card for payment and loyalty has been demonstrated by Starbucks and others. Apple’s Passbook functionality in iOS has begun replacing physical tickets and boarding passes for millions. Instead of pointing out we still need wallets, I find myself asking, “Why hasn’t the government figured out a way to let me carry an unhackable, unspoofable digital driver’s license on my phone?” Then I could skip the wallet altogether and just have the phone.

The Luddites here will quickly point out that your phone relies on a battery and once that’s dead, your wallet goes with it. But the reality is most of the time you don’t literally run out of power. There is also reason to hope the next iPhone will be much better in this regard.

Nice feature, Charlie

The toy surprise inside this box of iPhone Crackerjack, though, is that NFC is about more than just payments. Many products use it to simplify connections between peripherals and smartphones, like the Sony DSC-QX100. Anyone who has suffered through an annoying Bluetooth pairing will appreciate the first time they get to pair with an NFC-enabled device and it happens like magic.

NFC also is used by various transit payment systems, like the Clipper Card here in the S.F. Bay Area. While there is no evidence Apple is ready to announce partnerships with transit agencies, the possibility to replace yet more of your cards is on the horizon. Many hotels are going to smartphone-based keys as well. And while there are ways of implementing those using other technologies like Bluetooth and WiFi, having NFC provides yet another option. Cnet was pretty excited about NFC 2 years ago, and you can click through to see why. Suffice it to say, having the technology on iPhone will be good for NFC generally, which should have spillover benefits to Android users. And all the work done to date can finally begin benefitting Apple’s users too.

But the linchpin for all this is the chance for Apple to take a big step forward in the e-wallet space. If Bloomberg and Re/code got it right, Apple will have deals in place with American Express, Visa and Mastercard to announce. It recently began allowing Bitcoin apps back into the AppStore. It offers a way to add money to your iTunes account by walking into an Apple store. The company has all the pieces set up but one — that tiny NFC chip. And it’s about to fall into place.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Warren Bennis led the way

Harvey Mackay: Warren Bennis led the way
Harvey Mackay, Special to The Register 12:31 a.m. CDT August 18, 2014

Warren Bennis was synonymous with leadership.

Unfortunately, we lost Warren earlier this month, but his leadership lessons and principles will live on for years. He wrote more than 30 books on leadership, including his landmark work, "On Becoming a Leader." He advised U.S. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Ford and Reagan.

I got to know him during his 30 years at the University of Southern California where he was a distinguished professor of business administration and headed the Leadership Institute. I had the privilege of serving on Warren's board.

About two years ago, when I interviewed Warren for a group I was mentoring, he said, "I don't know of a time when leadership is more of an issue.

"To survive in the 21st century, we're going to need a new generation of leaders, not managers," he said. He clarified that leaders are strategic thinkers, while managers are tacticians.

Warren prophesied that managers had to change their way of leading. "Move to maestro from macho in the way we're thinking," he challenged. That means to shelve "command and control" thinking. Be a real leader who both listens and guides people to get the job done.

I asked Warren to prioritize, as best he could, the skills of a corporate leader today.

The first thing he mentioned was contextual intelligence. In other words, CEOs and their teams have to know "what is going on in the world that could inflect, deflect or influence their organization." He warned that CEOs and top teams today get too isolated and insulated and ultimately fail.

He said the first and primary task of a leader is to define reality and to give people perspective of where we are and provide the big picture of what's going on. The next steps are to align the troops and get the team in place.

In "On Becoming a Leader," he wrote that all leaders seem to exhibit some, if not all, of the following ingredients:

Guiding vision. "The leader has a clear idea of what he wants to do — professionally and personally and the strength to persist in the face of setbacks, even failures."

Passion. "The leader loves what he does and loves doing it. The leader who communicates passion gives hope and inspiration to other people."

Integrity. "I think there are three essential parts of integrity: Self-knowledge, candor and maturity. … Until you truly know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why you want to do it, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word. … Candor is the key to self-knowledge. Candor is based in honesty of thought and action, a steadfast devotion to principle, and a fundamental soundness and wholeness. … Maturity is important to a leader because … every leader needs to have experienced and grown through following — learning to be dedicated, observant, capable of working with and learning from others, never servile, always truthful."

Trust. "Trust is not as much an ingredient of leadership as it is a product. It is the one quality that cannot be acquired, but must be earned."

Curiosity and daring. "The leader wonders about everything, wants to learn as much as he can, is willing to take risks, experiment, try new things. He does not worry about failure, but embraces errors, knowing he will learn from them."

For a long time, Warren worked hard to achieve a key ambition: to become a university president. When he finally achieved his goal as president of the University of Cincinnati, he came to an unsettling realization. He liked having the prestige of being a university president, but he didn't enjoy doing the work it required.

That's when he started developing what ultimately became a four-question test for people seeking success in life. Those four questions are:

Do you know the difference between what you want and what you're good at?

Do you know both what drives you and what gives you satisfaction?

Do you know both your own priorities and values, and those of the organization you work for?

Can you identify the differences between the two alternatives in each of the above questions — and can you overcome those differences?

"If you can," he wrote later, "then success will be yours. In a nutshell, the key to success is identifying those unique modules of talent within you and then finding the right arena to use them."

Mackay's Moral: Warren Bennis brought new meaning to "follow the leader."

HARVEY MACKAY is author of the New York Times No. 1 best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached at harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55414.



5 cool new security research breakthroughs

5 cool new security research breakthroughs

By Bob Brown 
NetworkWorld | Aug 19, 2014 1:42 PM PT

University and vendor researchers are congregating in San Diego this week at USENIX Security ’14 to share the latest findings in security and privacy, and here are 5 that jumped out to me as being particularly interesting.

*On the Feasibility of Large-Scale Infections of iOS Devices

Georgia Tech researchers acknowledge that large-scale iOS device infections have been few and far between, but they claim weaknesses in the iTunes syncing process, device provisioning process and file storage could leave iPhones, iPads and other Apple products vulnerable to attack via botnets. The bad guys could get to the iOS devices via a compromised computer, they say, to install attacker-signed apps and swipe personal info. The researchers came to their conclusion after examining DNS queries within known botnets.

*XRay: Enhancing the Web’s Transparency with Differential Correlation

Columbia University researchers introduce XRay, a tool designed to give web users more insight into which of their personal data is being used to target them with ads. The researchers will present at USENIX a prototype of XRay, which has already been posted online as an open source system for others to explore. Initially, the system can be used to explain targeting in Gmail ads, Amazon recommendations and YouTube video suggestions.“Today we have a problem: the web is not transparent. We see XRay as an important first step in exposing how websites are using your personal data,” says Assistant Professor of Computer Science Roxana Geambasu.

*The Long “Taile” of Typosquatting Domain Names

Investigators from the University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon University and Budapest University of Technology and Economics took a deep dive into the world of typosquatting, where miscreants prey on unsuspecting web users tricked into visiting websites that only look like the ones they planned to visit and exploiting owners of legitimate websites with similar domain names. The researchers felt a more thorough examination of suspected typosquatting sites was necessarily to separate those that are based on true typos vs. those from cybercrooks, as well as to look more closely at typosquatting involving smaller sites. Much of the previous research, and thus defense tools, have focused on typosquatting that involves big name sites.

*The Emperor’s New Password Manager: Security Analysis of Web-based Password Managers

University of California at Berkeley researchers study five popular browser-based password managers (including LastPass and PasswordBox), and naturally, they identify a handful of security conscerns with the password managers themselves. One-time passwords, bookmarklets and shared passwords all present security vulnerabilities, the researchers say. The researchers come up with suggestions, including a defense in depth approach, for developing safer password managers.

*From the Aether to the Ethernet—Attacking the Internet using Broadcast Digital Television

Columbia University researchers warn that Hybrid Broadcast-Broadband Television, a Web-and-TV integration that is popular in Europe and coming to the United States, is based on an unsecure combination of technologies. Exploits could be widespread, hard to detect and inexpensive to pull off (say $450 to target 20,000 devices), say the researchers “A unique aspect of this attack is that, in contrast to most Internet of Things/Cyber-Physical System threat scenarios where the attack comes from the data network side and affects the physical world, our attack uses the physical broadcast network to attack the data network,” according to the paper.


11 Internet of Things ideas worth watching

11 Internet of Things ideas worth watching

By Bob Brown, NetworkWorld | Aug 26, 2014 5:20 AM PT
Cisco solicits IoT ideas in Innovation Grand Challenge

Cisco has launched the Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Grand Challenge “to spearhead an industry-wide initiative to accelerate the adoption of breakthrough technologies and products that will contribute to the growth and evolution of the Internet of Things.” Awards of $250,000 will be shared among the three winners, and can be used to jump-start the ventures. Here’s a sampling of the recently revealed 19 semi-finalists. Three grand winners will be announced on Oct. 14.

Solar Freakin’ Roadways

Cisco has to like this one, as it suggests using intelligent solar panels to replace everything from roadway paving to basketball court asphalt. They can heat surfaces to do away with icy driveways, and for Cisco, they would include integration with its fiber switches along highways and elsewhere.

Woosh: Smart urban water stations

Prototypes of these computerized water drinking stations have already rolled out in Tel Aviv and the idea is to make them available in many other locations in an effort to cut down on plastic bottle waste and increase overall water consumption.

Arilou’s CAN Firewall for car security

Drivers don’t just need a LoJack recovery system anymore for protecting their wheels. Arilou has developed a system to clamp down on unsecured car connectivity systems to make sure that your brakes, engine and air bags will work even if someone tries to mess with your wireless stereo system.

Toymail, wirelessly-networked toys

Cartoony little physical mailbox toys let you stay connected with your kids by sending them voice messages over WiFi via your phone that the toys then speak for the kids. It promotes two-way communication and keeps the kids off screens for at least a little bit.

Lesnoy Dozor: System for forest monitoring and early detection of fires

Uses sensors installed on high-rise towers, video cameras, infrared imagers and more for real-time monitoring.

Underwater Network Nodes

Gets around shortcomings of land/air based technologies like GPS to allow for underwater communications and navigation. Subnero proposes acoustic communications nodes (UNET nodes) that form a GPS-like network under water that could improve ship safety, monitor oil/gas and other underwater infrastructure, and more.

Sedicii: Authentication for the Cloud

This outfit’s patented TrustInside authentication technology does away with transmitting and storing passwords by using a randomized challenge-based system.

Unlock your Smart World with Chui facial recognition system

Facial recognition technology offers secure access to smart home systems, and addresses the possibilities of people playing tricks with pictures of your face. It also deals with changes to your face, such as wearing shades or growing a ‘stache.

WunderBar: Starter kit for IoT

Relayr’s tool set encourages DIYers to whip up apps that exploit sensors and other wireless IoT devices from any manufacturer.

Aerobots: Drones for aerial images

Propeller’s unmanned aerial vehicle technology provides detailed image maps and 3D models for construction teams, farms and more that are accessible via Web apps.

Medbip, for medication management

Its devices, which look like small leaves, can be fastened on medication packages (pill bottles, inhalers, injection pens, etc.) and linked to apps that help patients and caretakers manage their healthcare.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Album Sales Hit A New Low

Album Sales Hit A New Low

By Ed Christman and Glenn Peoples | August 28, 2014 8:59 AM EDT

The market for albums continues to recede, following a (now) long-standing trend that has been accelerated by streaming's success.

As streaming gathers momentum, the U.S. music industry keeps breaking sales milestones -- the wrong kind.

This week's 3.97-million album sales tally is the smallest weekly sum for album sales since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. It's also the first time weekly sales have fallen below four million in that time span.

Last week was fairly slow for the top releases. The top album, Wiz Khalifa's Blacc Hollywood, debuted with sales of 90,000 units, a figure below the first-week sales of many other top debuts of 2014. Three other albums debuted inside the top 10 but averaged only 31,000 units apiece. And the Frozen soundtrack is no longer moving in excess of 100,000 units per week.

To compare, a year ago this past week (ending Aug. 25, 2013), 4.88 million albums were sold. But sales have been losing steam all year. The weekly average number of album sales fell from 4.75 million units in the first quarter to 4.55 million units in the second quarter. In the first 8 weeks of the third quarter, the average has fallen further to 4.2 million.

This decline is actually in line with historical trends. In 2013, average weekly album sales experienced a similar fate, falling from 5.7 million units in the first quarter to 5.23 million units in the second quarter and then 4.86 million units in the third quarter. This year, overall U.S. album sales are down 14.6 percent, while digital album sales are down 11.7 percent and track sales are down 12.8 percent.

As more and more consumers transition from purchasing music to streaming tunes, it's natural to see album sales shrink. This year, there have only been five weeks where album sales were above 5 million.

Larger retailers and CDs, vestiges of an older record business, have been hit the hardest. Through August 24th, CD sales are down 19.2 percent year-over-year while sales at mass merchants and chains have fallen 23 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively.

Record label sales executives are not surprised by the latest downturn. "Sales have been going in the wrong direction all year," says one label sales head. "I guess its overdue, when you look at [the growth of streaming]." This year, label executives finally conceded something there were reluctant to acknowledge last year: Streaming is cannibalizing digital sales.

Last year, when Billboard covered the then-historic lows in album sales last August, weekly sales had dipped below 5 million units for five weeks in a row. Weekly sales fared even worse in the following weeks, falling under five million units in 10 of the next 13 weeks. There was even another five-week run of below-five-million weekly sales from early October to early November.

The five-million-unit mark has been almost unreachable in 2014. So far this year, weekly album sales have fallen below that threshold in 29 of 34 weeks and in each of the last 18 weeks. No weekly sales tally has exceeded 4.5 million units since the middle of June.

"What can I say about this week's sales," says yet another distribution sales executive. "I remember when album sales fell under 10 million units and the industry reacted like it was a tragedy."

There is yet more bad news about the sales trend. Since album sales began to slide in 2002, the lowest-placed weekly sales floor by the end of the year tends to become the new ceiling for sales in the following year. Past history teaches us that, if weekly sales continue to fall below the three million mark, next year's norm will be in the three to four million range.

While some major label executives claim that revenue from streaming, which continues to grow, is offsetting declining digital sales revenue, not everyone agrees with that assessment.

"This year the bottom fell out of digital sales to a degree that we never anticipated, which is why many companies are not meeting this year's revenue projections," laments one indie distribution executive.

Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield


Apple tightens privacy rules for health apps

August 28, 2014 6:23 pm

Apple tightens privacy rules for health apps
By Tim Bradshaw in San Francisco

Apple is tightening up its privacy rules to ensure a new generation of health and fitness apps are not thwarted by growing concerns over how developers use personal data.

The rules will stop personal data collected through Apple’s new HealthKit platform being used to target adverts for products such as weight loss remedies.

HealthKit, which will track data including exercise levels and sleep, is one of the key features of a new mobile operating system that will next month launch alongside a new iPhone and a highly anticipated wearable device, dubbed the iWatch by pundits.

Shares in Apple touched a fresh high on Thursday after Apple sent out invites for a media launch on September 9, at which the group is expected to unveil new iPhones and possibly a wearable device.

Health apps, which can track intimate data such as heart rate, have seen a spike in popularity in the past year. But studies by regulators and privacy groups have found some developers pass user data on to advertising networks, often without telling the customer.

In the latest update to Apple’s iOS developer program licence agreement, Apple said developers must “not sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit API to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers”.
The privacy clampdown comes as Apple seeks to differentiate itself against rival Google, which relies on targeted ads for much of its income.

In June, Apple unveiled its Health app, a new dashboard to allow iPhone owners to track their heart rate, calorie intake, movement and other fitness metrics from a variety of different apps in a single place. Underlying the dashboard is the HealthKit system, which allows developers to contribute data from their own apps and draw on information from others if users grant permission.

Developers who want to tap into HealthKit's application programming interface (API) must commit to a new set of rules, including a requirement to link to a privacy policy.
HealthKit apps must not use the API or any information obtained through it “for any purpose other than providing health and/or fitness services”, Apple’s new rules state. All apps participating in the scheme must offer privacy policies

Apps that break these rules risk ejection from the App Store, while any breach of a privacy policy could involve federal regulatory enforcement.

The move from an App Store dominated by games and chat apps into health and fitness introduces much greater regulatory complexity for Apple and the people who create software for its iPhone and iPad.

Above and beyond its already-strict rules for developers, Apple is being extra careful in how it curates Health apps, after consulting with regulators. In January, Apple executives discussed “medical applications” with the US Food and Drug Administration, the agency’s records have shown.

In June, Flurry, a mobile analytics firm recently acquired by Yahoo, reported a 62 per cent increase in usage of health apps, outpacing the wider market’s growth.
Many of those apps, especially if they are free to download, rely on advertising for their income.

Last year, Privacy Clearing House, a campaign group, found that 43 per cent of the health apps it studied shared user-generated personally identifiable information with advertisers. A study earlier this year by the US Federal Trade Commission found that a sample of 12 fitness apps transmitted users' information around dietary and workout habits to 76 third parties.

HealthKit is aggregating data from what will likely be multiple sources . . . Apple is being very careful as to how that is utilised or controlled. It’s Apple tightening control on developers
- Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight

Some app makers are already working to combat these concerns.

Earlier this month, Fitbit, a leading maker of fitness tracking devices, put out a reworded privacy policy that made no changes to its terms but tried to explain them in clearer language. “We don’t sell any data that could identify you,” Fitbit's new policy says.

“HealthKit is aggregating data from what will likely be multiple sources within one location on the device,” says Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight. “Apple is being very careful as to how that is utilised or controlled. It’s Apple tightening control on developers.”

The new protections around health data follow Apple’s previous attempts to offer more privacy controls around developers’ access to an iPhone’s location or uploading their address book, areas which have caused controversy in the past. Just last month, Apple faced criticism from the Chinese media over the iPhone's location-tracking capabilities; Apple denied any risk to national security.

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about spy agencies’ attempts to tap tech companies’ huge data troves for surveillance, the new iOS 8 update will include several other new privacy features. These include regular prompts to confirm that apps can continue to track location, new ways to block tracking cookies in its Safari web browser, and end-to-end encryption of iMessages.

“Apple faces this increasingly tricky balance of ensuring they are carefully regulating the data developers have access to, with developers’ desire to create ever more innovative apps and services,” Mr Blaber said. “Apple has always closely controlled what comes through the App Store, far more so than Google.”

“There are lots of privacy and ethical implications, for sure, but there is also great opportunity here to make a meaningful difference on the aggregate health of the world,” says Jason Jacobs, chief executive of exercise app Runkeeper, of Apple’s Healthkit initiative. “If they are successful, it could make things both easier for developers and more valuable for consumers and for healthcare in general.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Scientists find secret of reversing bad memories

Telegraph.co.uk

Thursday 28 August 2014

Scientists find secret of reversing bad memories

Bad memories could be reversed after scientists discovered the part of the brain which links emotions to past events

Scientists at MIT have discovered which part of the brain controls bad memories and how to reverse them

By  Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent

6:00PM BST 27 Aug 2014

Bad memories of past trauma can leave people emotionally scarred for life.

But now neuroscientists believe they can erase feelings of fear or anxiety attached to stressful events, in a breakthrough which could help treat depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers at MIT, US, have discovered which brain circuits attach emotions to memories, and crucially, how to reverse the link.

They managed to ‘switch off’ feelings of fear in mice which had been conditioned to feel anxious. It is likely the same technique could be used in humans.

“In our day to day lives we encounter a variety of events and episodes that give positive or negative impact to our emotions,” said Susuma Tonegawa, Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at the Riken-MIT Centre for Neural Circuit Genetics.

“If you are mugged late at night in a dark alley you are terrified and have a strong fear memory and never want to go back to that alley.

“On the other hand if you have a great vacation, say on a Caribbean island, you also remember it for your lifetime and repeatedly recall that memory to enjoy the experience.

“So emotions are intimately associated with memory of past events. And yet the emotional value of the memory is malleable. Recalling a memory is not like playing a tape recorder. Rather it is like a creative process.

“The circuits seem to be very similar between human and mice when it comes to memory formations and the emotions of memories. So a similar technology could be available for humans.”

Memories are made of many elements, which are stored in different parts of the brain. The context of a memory, such as the location and time that the event took place, is stored in cells in the hippocampus, while emotions linked to that memory are found in the amygdala.

The team studied which brain cells were active when mice were experiencing a pleasant experience – a male mouse socialising with a female mouse – or a negative experience – a mild electrical shock.

They then showed that by stimulating the neurons associated with the opposite emotion they could reverse the feeling attached to the memory. Mice became more relaxed in situations where they had previously been anxious and more fearful where they had previously been content.

“We found that we can dictate the overall emotion and the direction of the memory.” added Prof Tonegawa, “We could switch the mouse’s memory from positive to negative and negative to positive.”

The brain cells are triggered by a technique called optogentics which uses pulses of blue light to trigger the neurons into firing.

Previous studies have shown that memories can change over time as recollections become more vague or events that never happened are remembered. Behavioural therapists often take patients back to a traumatic event and ‘rewire’ their

But this is the first time that scientists have shown which brain circuits are responsible for positive and negative emotions, and reversed them.

Professor Richard Morris at the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at the University of Edinburgh said: “We often believe that our memories are accurate, but in fact they are malleable.

“The memory of a romantic first date with a partner may take on a different mood when the relationship falters. That of a favourite family beach in summer may be destroyed after witnessing a swimming tragedy

“Molecular engineering is shedding light on our understanding of the underlying physiological networks of memory.”

The researchers are hopeful it could lead to a cure for depression or post-traumatic stress disorder without the need for medication.

“It’s not something we can do next week, but we are now developing a variety of methods to try to target the stimulation of the human brain cells,” added Prof Tonegawa.

“Instead of going inside the brain you stimulate from the surface of the brain which would be less invasive.

“I want to make it clear that we have not used this technology in order to alter normal healthy people’s mind or cognition. That we should not do. If there is any application in human it would be for pathological conditions.”

The research was published in the journal Nature.