Waving to pay: Google, Apple and NFC
Users of Android powered smartphones and tablets may no longer need their conventional wallets for shopping purposes.
This is because Google, advertising giant and owner of the Android operating system, is collaborating with MasterCard and Citigroup to literally turn such devices into sources of payment at cash registers and payment outlets.
By utilizing an embedded chip technology known as "near field communications" (NFC), consumers need only to wave or tap them at NFC-equipped sales terminals to pay for goods and services; thus eliminating the need for credit cards.
Of course, notable Google rivals such as Apple and RIM are unlikely to cede this important capability to Google. The next iteration of the iphone is strongly rumored to ship with NFC capability, and RIM is reported to be testing the technology in its devices.
Beyond its obvious advantages over conventional credit cards in terms of convenience and security (it is claimed to be more secure than magnetic striped credit cards), NFC offers potential for widespread use in the future. We could even see NFC-enabled devices serving as travel visas, personal IDs, entry keys, tracking sensors, movie tickets and marketing platforms.
For its part, Google is especially interested in the advertising opportunities NFC can provide, especially since NFC-enabled device owners will be targeted with relevant ads and discount offers.
Another tech giant, Apple, with its over 200 million iTunes store users, stands to benefit immensely by leveraging this capability to sell music, movies, apps and books to its subscribers.
Initially, fears had been expressed over a clear lack of standard for the adoption of NFC technology. However, such concerns are likely to rapidly disappear as the technology gains wider adoption. Indeed, there are already "wave-able" credit cards which carry NFC chips, in the hands of consumers, and retail outlets for these are growing every day.
Clearly, though, the quest for the next mobile payment solution is not short on competition. The occupants of Googolplex will have to contend with the like of AT&T and T-Mobile, who have teamed up on an NFC venture known as Isis.