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Companies struggle to popularise mobile money

Peter Svensson (via AP/ AFR) | March 4, 2013
Mobile money may seem like a hot concept, but consumers aren’t warming to it. At the world’s largest cellphone trade show, in Barcelona last week, the 70,000 attendees were encouraged to use their cellphones, instead of their keycards, to get past the turnstiles at the door.

Control of the secure element is a crucial battleground for NFC. The GSMA, which is dominated by cellphone carriers, advocates putting the secure element not in the phone itself, but in the subscriber identity module, or SIM card, which plugs into the phone to identify the user and supply a phone number to the network. SIM cards are issued and controlled by the carriers who would like to be the ones in control of the secure element.

While Visa, phone companies and Google (which has its own payment initiative) duel over the secure element, eBay Inc.'s PayPal is wondering what all the fuss is about. The online payment network thinks NFC is a lot more trouble than it's worth. The company isn't afraid to say so at the wireless industry tradeshow.

"If you want to change something, you have to solve problems that people have in everyday life," said David Marcus, the president of PayPal. "It's not like everyone is thinking 'Oh, I wish someone came up with something better'" than paper money and credit cards.

PayPal is putting a lot of effort into making cellphones central to the way we shop, but is focusing on the shopping experience itself, rather than payments.

The company's ideal vision for buying a cup of coffee: you pull out your phone on the way to the store, fire up PayPal's app to order your double-skim latte and pay for it in advance. When you arrive at the counter, the barista has your picture and your coffee, and gives it to you right away. Then you're out the door.

Thirty years ago, Mr Marcus said, store clerks knew the people in their neighbourhood and greeted them by name.

"We think with this technology, we could recreate that personal connection," he said. "We feel this is going to leapfrog the efforts of NFC."

 

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