Mobile money: from infancy to intrinsic
It seems everybody except my brother is trying to get a toehold in the marketplace with their version of a mobile wallet. But in order for a mobile wallet to replace our right rear pocket accessory it needs to provide all the capabilities that its leather counterparts have been providing since the dawn of society.
The word wallet has been in use since the late 14th century to refer to a bag or knapsack for carrying articles. Usage of the term “wallet," in its modern meaning of “flat case for carrying paper currency,” in American English dates back to 1834.
In order to make my point, let's take a minute and examine the contents of our wallets. Looking through my personal wallet right now right now I find my business cards, driver's license, appointment card for my cardiologist, several other business cards of people I recently met at a local networking mixer, $307 in cash, Florida lottery ticket, Costco membership card, insurance card, prescription card, annual Disney pass, punch card for our cat's vet, AAA card, Social Security card, my Starbucks card and tucked away in a special compartment, the user id and password for a bank account I closed two years ago.
If I pull up at a valet stand, I get a stub and put it in my wallet. If I go to the airport and check my bag, I put the receipt in my wallet. If I drop off dry cleaning, I get a receipt and… well, you get it. Without doing a thorough study, I can unequivocally say that 99 percent of the mobile wallets being rolled out do not have the proficiency of capturing, storing, retrieving and presenting these tokens that usually indicate turning over and transferring care of an item of value which has become a ritual of modern society.
Some companies are starting to make inroads, attempting to transition mobile wallets from their infancy, moving them towards becoming an intrinsic part of our modern society. As hard as it is to put your mobile device down now, imagine how difficult it will be to part with it when it contains your state or federal identification, work badge, insurance information, medical records, receipts, vouchers, event tickets, coupons and Starbucks card.
Last week, Apple gave a sneak peak of its forthcoming Passbook interface for iPhone. They referred to the Passbook as being time and location-based. In other words, your phone will know when you're at the airport or coffee shop and display the appropriate ticket, card, coupon or receipt. Obviously, in order to perform these feats, your mobile device will have to know your whereabouts at all times. But ask anyone with basic knowledge concerning GPS technology and they'll tell you it is not very accurate for definitive tracking. Yes, it's gotten better, and an $8 billion upgrade in 2010 was said to be able to pinpoint someone's location within an arm’s length. But is GPS the only technology up Apple’s sleeve?
Although no mention was made of NFC capabilities related to Passbook, Apple was only giving a sneak peek of the new iOS – not the new iPhone.
Combining timestamps, date stamps, location-based information and software that learns your paths, habits, preferences and quirks; Passbook could be the first steps of an infant. Mix in NFC with its four centimeter pinpointing and information transfer capabilities and you've gone from a crawl to a walk.
Now, before you start thinking “cult of Mac,” please note: I don't own or possess a single piece of hardware manufactured by Apple. I don't have an iPad, MacBook, iPod or iPhone. So this is not the ravings of some obsessed Apple fan boy. I just finally see the realization of a concept that has been my mantra concerning mobile financial services. And although we don't have all the details yet, we do have someone who finally “gets it."
Passbook may be the “killer app” that nurtures mobile wallets out of the baby steps of their infancy and transitions them into the formative years of their early childhood in Generation-M!