While on a trip to New York in 2011, my friends and I came across some very long lines in Times Square. The lines were in front of about 5 Coke vending machines. It seemed as though free cans of Coke was the draw. Upon further investigation, it turned out that to get this free Coke, customers had to partake in a challenge. A challenge that would shock the interested, excite the experienced, and terrify the conspiracy theorists. The challenge was to… wait for it… Tap and Pay with a smartphone.
I had heard of this technology before, but had never seen it function in person. The concept is an eWallet. Users can either bump, tap or swipe their way to instant and easy payment with their mobile device.
Here’s how it works…
A secure chip is added to a mobile device. An application can be (but doesn’t have to be) downloaded onto a smartphone for easier management of spending. The chip is loaded with cash using an interface and the chip is swiped, tapped or bumped toward a pay point. The money automatically gets withdrawn from your account and in this case the Coke is dispensed. No third party is necessary to complete the transaction and because the payment runs off the chip, the phone doesn’t even need to have battery power to work!
I found myself in the excited category; I had never seen this functionality in person before. My brain immediately flooded with questions. When will this be all the rage? When will I be able to leave home with only my car keys and smartphone in hand? Is Canada going to follow suit? Hmmm. This was a bit of a worry. In my opinion, Canada has been a bit behind the 8 ball with regard to mobile technology, so I wasn’t too hopeful. Imagine my surprise when just weeks after announcing the end of the Canadian penny, the Royal Canadian Mint launched a competition for development of software to accompany their new technology, the MintChip. A $17,000 gold bar is the prize for the winning company, but all Canadian’s are the real winners gaining the ability of current mobile technology at their thumbs!
Don’t get too excited just yet though. The MintChip is only being targeted to handle micro-transactions (max $10). This differs from countries which already have the technology. Citizens in countries such as; Japan and Sweden can pay for almost anything using their smartphone. They are among some of the technology forward countries that are leaps and bounds ahead of the game. The good news is that they have been the guinea pigs for tech projects such as this, so as long as Canada uses their model as a base for the MintChip technology and software development, then chances are, in time, larger payment options will also become available.
Mobile commerce is growing fast with the traditional methods of payment; imagine how much it will grow with the addition of this new technology. In fact, in this year’s fast approaching summer Olympics, ATM’s around the venues are being turned off. An article in The Guardian says that the games will be “cash-starved by design” to promote contact-less and mobile payments only. This tactic has become a big topic of debate and is definitely a risky maneuver. It will be very interesting to see the outcome.
The point is that technology is ever-changing and evolving. Yes, there will be concerns regarding this new technology and at the forefront of these concerns will be the security factor, but ultimately I believe it will be embraced. I for one welcome a new convenient payment method. So whether it’s tapping, bumping or swiping, you can count me in.