> Where's My Wallet?

Where's My Wallet?

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2009 | No Comments

This very morning I drove my usual 30 miles to work and watched the dial that shows how much petrol I have in the tank slowly get lower and lower with each passing mile. Nothing strange there, especially on a Monday morning – a traditional time for me to fill up the car ready for the week ahead. After all, who wants to fill up on a Friday when all you really want to do is get home and start the weekend.

Thus this morning was the same as any other Monday morning, The Beatles blared from my stereo; my heaters were blowing warm air at a gentle breeze – in vast contrast to the cold, blustery, windy conditions outside of the car. Pulling off the duel carriageway, onto the forecourt of a well-known fuel supplier for the Ferrari Formula One team, I parked up alongside pump number 5 and pulled the lever to flip open the fuel hatch. As I got out of the car, my usual procedure then began, reaching to my back pocket……for…..my…..wallet – which wasn’t there!

For anyone more organised or sensible, the issue wouldn’t have been quite as big a problem – but I work 30 miles away from home, and the petrol station is only a mere 5 miles away from my place of work, leaving me no choice of being able to double back on myself and pick up my wallet. So it was sheepishly, I turned and got back in the car to continue my journey to work in the hope of getting someone to loan me a small amount of money so I can put enough petrol in to get me home and back to a petrol station to try again.

Which leads me nicely onto my question; where is the all of the technology that allows me to pay for things using my mobile phone? Where is my digital wallet? In my car this morning was my netbook computer and in my pocket was my Palm Pre smart phone – two digitally enabled items capable of being used to transfer digital currency from my bank account and into the virtual hands of those whose services I needed mostly this morning.

How come in some parts of the world, people can pay for a Big Mac using their mobile phone handset and others can’t? What is holding this technology back? My mobile phone – which I remind you were right there in my pocket – is linked directly to my bank account via my contract. Clever companies like Apple, Palm and Google have allowed you to purchase content and applications directly from their ‘App Stores’ using exactly this method, yet I can’t use my phone to pay for anything else outside of that digital content?

A few weeks ago I was reading with interest an article submitted to TechCrunch which made the bold claim that “Web 3.0” was upon us and that the third iteration of the World Wide Web as we know it would be based not around the social networking of Web 2.0, but the micro-payments for virtual and digital goods online.

That’s an interesting thought and one I hadn’t considered before – yet it seems to make sense, especially when you look at the evidence already out there. Since Facebook opened its platform for developers to host games directly on there – such as Farmville and others, these games which are made freely available have been selling virtual goods as a way to generate income. For example, 300,000 virtual tractors were sold to players who wished to progress in the game – that’s a lot of tractors!

Since Apple opened up its ‘App Store’ to allow developers the ability to take micro-payments inside of their apps, similar games have appeared on the mobile platform too. The initial game is given away for free, yet power-ups, new guns, additional levels, and other items that anyone who wants to take the game more seriously must have, are available at a cost. And that’s really quite clever and a model that may well transgress towards other software – imagine a free word processor or spreadsheet application – want to use a new font or insert a chart – a small cost would allow you purchase these add-ons and generate revenue. A pay for what you use style model.

The increased always-on connectivity to the internet and the need to find new financial models means these transactions are likely to become more and more popular; meaning that this could very well be the dawn of Web 3.0 where micro-payments are king.

Of course there’s still a lot to work out – how are these things regulated? How do you prevent fraud or credit card details from being stolen or falling into the wrong hands? Who are users going to trust with their financial details (Apple, Google, PayPal?) and will different websites require different payment methods (Google Checkout, eBay/Pay Pal, etc)?

In the online world, it seems inevitable that these things will just happen. In the real world it will undoubtedly take longer and require more agreement from all of the differing parties involved and the mobile manufacturers and telcos on how to deliver all of these different services and solutions – and lets face it, when can the telcos or manufacturers ever agreed on anything? That’s why Apple were able to slide in and break the industry for themselves when they first launched the iPhone (something that you have to give Apple credit for – no matter how much of a “fanboi” you may or may not be).

When am I likely to be able to pay for my goods using my digital wallet or mobile phone payment? Not within the next 3 years I’d say at least unfortunately. When can I likely be paying for my petrol in this way? Probably when they start allowing you to use your mobile phone on the petrol station forecourt! Do’h!

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