[Dave Birch] The foreseeable horizon for electronic transactions is, as far as I can see, dominated by mobile. Most people, in most organisations, in most countries, most of the time, will be using their mobile phones to access financial services and (in particular) to instruct transactions. The people who use PCs and the web to access, manage and instruct transactional services are already a minority and for some of us the extent to which mobile is beginning to dominate in some countries is almost shocking.

While on a trip to South Korea, Chen, a 24-year-old graphic designer from Sacramento, Calif., noticed how people whipped out cell phones when it came time to pay. One of her friends had a mobile phone from SK Telecom, South Korea’s biggest mobile operator, that let her fill her commuter train account when it fell below a certain amount, and remotely send the charges to her Visa account. “She just held out her phone as we walked through the turnstile,” said Chen. “I got spoiled. Now I want to do the same with my phone.”

[From Mobile Payments: Will That be Cash, Check Or Cell Phone | VASreport.com]

I noticed this sort of thing on my last visit to Seoul as well. It’s not even regarded as novel any more: the mobile phone as transaction device is part of normal life. Back home, we’re nowhere close to this. At the time of writing I can’t use my mobile phone on the Tube, let alone to pay for the Tube, and the proposed mobile front-end to the Faster Payment Service (FPS) — which I’ve always been keen on — seems quiescent. Having said that, I noted over at the VRF blog that the “pay your plumber” scenario has receeded somewhat, at least for my plumber who now has a chip and PIN terminal. We seem slow to notice the mobile revolution and act, yet surely many people recognise the transformational potential for mobile in the payments space. I found it odd, when leafing through the old APACS paperback “Payments Past, Present and Future“, published in 1996, that it did not even once mention mobile phones, despite the fact that (according to the BBC):

Once beyond the reach of most mortals, mobiles really took off in 1996, becoming fashion accessories for all.

[From BBC – Cult – I Love 1996 – Fashion]

Fair enough: it’s really hard to see what technologies are going to have an impact when they are all around you, let alone when you are trying to imagine technologies of the future. But mobile phones aren’t “the future”, they’re now.

You’ve probably heard it before – mobile banking is the next big thing. It’s about to take off. But this time, analysts say it’s poised to happen, and the numbers seem to back that up.

[From Mobile Banking Poised for Takeoff]

I don’t think it’s a particularly controversial view to say that the future of electronic transactions and the future of mobile phones (or, at least, the devices formerly known as mobile phones) are inextricably linked.

The idea of using the mobile phone as the combined authentication and access device is particularly attractive, especially given the opportunity that will exist in the future to use voice biometrics and speech recognition to extend the mobile-as-2FA-token paradigm to as mobile-as-3FA-token. But more than mobile implementations of existing services, or mobile access to existing services, what really interests me is that the mobile phone can bring new services into the transaction space using capabilities that exist because of mobility. A good, and obvious example, is location.

The service Ericsson IPX [can] allow the bank to request the country location of the mobile phone at the time of a transaction. Within the seconds that a purchase is requesting approval, the country lookup matches the country location of the purchase and of the mobile phone without needing to directly contact the customer.

[From 160Characters Association]

You can see that this would lead to all sort of services: I could tell my bank that I’m going to Belgium, for example, and they could tell from my mobile when I’m there and then turn on/off various services. Or if I get kidnapped and turn up in Romania, they could execute any transaction I instruct but send my location and a distress message to the police at the same time. This is the sort of thing that may be discussed in the session on “Mobile and Micropayment Opportunities” at the EuroFinance International Cash and Treasury Management conference in Copenhagen on 21st-23rd October 2009. I’ll be taking part in that session on mobile, giving delegates an up-to-date whistlestop tour around the world of mobile payments, pointing out one or two case studies that I hope will give them some ideas for increasing revenues or reducing costs.

Incidentally, the wonderful people at EuroFinance have given me a delegate pass for this event — worth thousands of euros, but I can’t tell you how many exactly because it must be marked to market on the day you read this — to award on this blog as a competition prize. So if you are going to be in Copenhagen on those dates and you’d like to come along to hear some of the leaders in the field discussing the key issues in the world of the corporate treasury, then all you have to do is reply to this thread with the name of the famous English hero (possibly not so much in Denmark) who disobeyed Admiral Sir Hyde Parker’s order to withdraw from the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 and instead led an attack that destroyed much of the Danish-Norwegian fleet before a truce could be agreed.

In the traditional fashion, this competition is open to all except for employees of Consult Hyperion and members of my immediate family, is void where prohibited and committed to equal opportunities. The prize must be claimed within three months. Oh, and no-one can win more than one of the Digital Money Blog prizes per calendar year.

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. I suggested this idea to Discover 6 years ago, and instead of taking my suggestion they told me the didnt believe I knew what I was talking about. (I was at the bottom of the company at that time)But now I see articles like these and I just laugh. I really wanted to be able to use my phone with a utility like this, as I can see many advantages. Thanks for the post.

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