For some time now, there have been countries that did the majority of its banking through the use of cellular phones. This hasn’t been considered safe or desirable in the US till now, but now Google is attempting to pioneer a mobile wallet that will be aimed at the US market. Such services already exist in Japan and are being launched elsewhere as well.
The basis for the mobile wallet is the near field communications technology, or NFC. NFC allows one device to ‘talk’ to another by simply being brought close to the other, and in the case of the mobile wallet would allow a person to pay for goods or services by simply passing their cellular phone in front of the payment processing device.
NFC chips are already available in some credit cards. Phones however would offer additional services, such as allowing a customer to scan a product via NFC and find alternative versions of it, or lower priced items in other nearby stores. It could also hold and activate special offers and coupons that the customer has saved.
The payment service will be supported by the Visa network currently, but if popular it may be extended to other credit networks. Initially it will be made available in certain larger chains in the New York and San Francisco areas. The Sprint network will be the first to offer the mobile wallet to its customers. The cellular phone version of NFC will be compatible with the credit card version, meaning that where it is already installed it will be ready to go. There are some businesses that have it country wide, such as McDonalds and CVS.
Only a limited range of Android phones will be able to support the service, and they will have to come with the NFC technology built in. It will be a physical upgrade to the standard hardware rather than being just a software app, and as such the phones will need to come ready equipped from the manufacturer. Software will be needed as well, in order to hold certain information on the phone, and to tell the NFC chip how to communicate with the NFC payments processor. The Nexus S by Google is the only phone that currently works with NFC, with others to come soon.
Other phone manufacturers are likely to follow suit and integrate the NFC technology into their phones too. Apple have announced their plans to include NFC into the iPhone 5 when it is released, and Windows and Blackberry phones will also use NFC. There are high expectations as to the number of NFC devices that will be sold over the coming year.
Some fears remain surrounding this technology-such as the fear of cloning and of fraud, and many of these will need to be addressed and fully explained before some people are willing to trust it. But in time it may prove to be the ideal way to cut down on queues and waiting times, making paying for your weekly shop easier than ever.