[Dave Birch] The Chicago Fed published an interesting letter asking whether mobile is the new smart card by which they mean, in an American context, will mobile payments flare and then die away. They agree with me (!) that mobile holds a significant advantage over contactless cards in the area of paperless two-way communication. Cards just do not allow for the sending, receiving, and presenting of information, as mobile devices do. These are clearly factors that point to mobile beginning to encroach on cards territory. They are already are in some places. France, for example, where Orange has announced that it will launch the first mobile contactless services, based on NFC technology, in Bordeaux in early 2008. And in the U.S., where Wells Fargo and Visa are to conduct public mobile payments trial with up to 500 customers in the fourth quarter of the year. So is mobile the new smart card: ie, a new payment technology that starts in France and then spreads worldwide except for the U.S., finally sneaking in to the U.S. under the guise of contactless? Well, I guess, the answer must be yes!

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Note that Orange have said that they are preparing similar launches in its other European markets. So someone is bullish (eg, Peter Helderman). But retailers still have some questions despite being enthusiastic. Marina O’Rourke, the director of retail technology at the Subway restaurant chain, says that as the mobile phone becomes more ubiquitous, there are many opportunities for retailers to use the technology to market products to customers. She means things like using a phone’s GPS to locate a Subway shop, send an order via text message to the store and then going to pick it up, paying (of course) with the phone. She also says that Subway is in the early stages of piloting some different options for mobile. This kind of vision will, I think, become commonplace more quickly than many anticipate. Many other observers (ie, not just people like me who are obsessed with mobile NFC) think that ultimately may drive acceptance of contactless technology with consumers and retailers is its integration with mobile phones.

Javelin have just come out with a similar perspective, saying that adding contactless to consumer mobile devices will replace payments cards and will spur 30 million additional users over the next 5 years. The numbers are starting get pretty serious.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. We’re in synch here. I blogged last week on how contactless cards will fizzle in the US, but can’t be dismissed because the NFC capability provides the proverbial rails on which mobile payments will take off. Then on Wednesday we issued a press release on this same topic, which also announced a new research report on the same topic. Bottom line, companies need to understand that contactless cards are a distraction from the real destination of mobile payments. Plans based on contactless cards as a destination will fail with consumers and merchants, so this distinction is vital.

  2. I bogged about not overlooking the advertising angle of mobile payments here:
    The point being that such an advertising “subsidy” could effectively lower the cost of mobile payments making them the economic choice for merchants.
    To comment on another aspect of mobile payments: while I think NFC has a place for proximity payments, it just replicates (i.e. is limited to) the contactless footprint. There are a lot of mobile payment applications that can happen at a distance like peer to peer and overseas remittance.

  3. “companies need to understand that contactless cards are a distraction from the real destination of mobile payments”
    I think “distraction” is probably a little strong. I would say that contactless cards are a step on the new roadmap and I agree strongly with you that corporate strategy should be developed from that perspective.

  4. The history of the payment tools is always following one than other. Like cash, paper, plastics, embosing, mag stripe, chip-EMV, and finally contactless and of course cash again still standing.
    And we were supposed to belive that every new technology is going to be more secure, replace the previous one or will cover the security gaps of the previous.
    And yet all the historical technological versions still can be seen on one card and it looks they are going to stand there for years. Because, we all do know there is one good reason for this, and that is “interoperability”. And as we do know , as long they are there, nobody can use the real advantages of their new investments.
    Regulations or liability shifts does protect the issuers/acquirers but they do not really took a action again fraud trends. And as many European banks thinking the same way, besides US, fraud can not be a real business case to move to EMV, it may help banks to save but not to make money.
    That’s why NFC could be a good option. NFC enabled phones could be a form that does not carry the historical evulation within it.
    So , a jump will may occur in our list like ; paper, plastics, embossing, mag stripe, NFC

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