Using my mobile as a wallet…why?

My day-to-day job involves me doing PR for a few of the mobile startups out there, trying to make a difference in how people use their mobile. I’ve been working with these companies for about 4 months now and have learnt absolutely oodles about the mobile industry. It’s been fantastic to get a real insight into what’s going on. It’s one of the reasons why i love my work. I get to talk to the people on the front line, creating and implementing things. Things that i can’t build, but want to be part of (i should’ve paid more attention in school).

Anyways, last night i went to my first MoMo event (Mobile Monday) and it was a fantastically organised evening (congrats to Helen, Daniel and the crew). The topic of last night’s conversation was Near Field Communication. Which basically means the way in which (those of you in London) your Oyster card works by talking to the scanner pad etc and some of those contactless payment devices you may have seen dotted around town.

This being a mobile event (key’s in the name 🙂 ) it was about how such technology could be built into your phone, giving you an all-in-wonder- phone….see what i did there…

I guess it works better for some people than others.

This marvel of a mobile could pay for your travel on the underground with a simple wave of your phone. I picture the action to be much like the Jedi Mind trick wave. Casual, subtle, effortless but with a profound effect.

You’ll also be able to use your phone in shops to pay for things like cigarettes and other purchases under £10 (this will mostly be the use for such tech according to the nice lady from O2)

It all sounds good. Combining three things, the wallet, the travel pass and the phone; and making them one; some kind of Wavelphone (again, a made up name in my own brain)

But the alarm bell ringing in my head is “what happens if i lose my Wavelphone on a night out?”

1- I have no phone to call a cab home.

2- I have no money to pay for the cab home.

3 – i have no travel pass to get bus/train home

I’m pretty much fucked.

Yes this is a hypothetical view. I wouldn’t of course go out without any money, as i don’t know that many bars with contactless payment devices. But there is a huge risk in combining everything. My mother always said “Don’t put your all your eggs in one basket” – i often ignore that advice at the supermarket (have you every tried separating your eggs into different baskets??) but i can’t help think she might be right here.

Mobiles are developing at an enormous pace, we already have walkmans, cameras, calculators, clocks, calendars combined into most phones. If you’ve got a newer phone or an iPhone, you’ve also got the whole freakin Internet in your pocket, along with pocket guitars/keyboards/pints of beer, lightsabers etc. By building in two more things into the phone, it suddenly makes it that much more valuable and dangerous.

I could ramble on about what was discussed last night but i’m trying to keep this kind of short-ish. One last thing i wanted to touch on was the question from Simon Rockwell from Sony Ericsson on what kind of margins would the operators be looking at taking from TFL or the shopkeeper? O2’s answer was that they weren’t interested in the transactional end of things…i found this hard to believe.

At the moment for stuff like premium SMS services where customers buy content on their mobile and the amount gets added to their monthly bill, the operators take something like 30%. So for every £1 spent in that format, the operator gets about 30p. Quite rightly, the people offering such content, might be feeling a little ripped off and perhaps even punished for being innovative enough to offer such a service. I thought it would be hard if nigh-on impossible for operators to continue those margins with independent shopkeepers or Transport For London (operators would be told where to go if they were wanting to take 30%. To say that they’re not interested in the transactional end worried me a little. Surely this would be too much money to miss out of for them?? But i guess on the other hand, the amount of data they would have access to would be priceless.

If NFC does come into play in the next five years (2012 was the target O2 mentioned) then we can certainly expect mobile advertising to change. People are talking about location based services now, finding out where someone is and trying to interact with them by sending them something they might be interested in. With NFC you will know where someone is, because they’ve interacted with something like a Smart Poster and advertisers will then be able to send them information they know the recipient will be interested in, seeing as they initiated the contact.

Sorry that this has turned out to be a bit of a mammoth post, but if you have made it down this far. Let me know your thoughts on putting everything on one device and your thoughts about the operators having even more data on who you are, where you are and what you purchase etc.

Neil

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~ by Neil on October 14, 2008.

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