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A postcard from MWC: Mobile Money for tomorrow’s technology

The halls of Fira Gran Via, which plays host to Mobile World Congress (MWC), were as always a showcase for all sorts of digital technology. I was particularly interested to explore the halls asking myself, what’s the Mobile Money angle? Here are four of the things that caught my attention. 

1.    The Internet of Things

Whilst connected devices, connected cities and the Internet of Things have been the talk of the technology world for a few years now, the devices on show at MWC were on a whole new level. Connected cars, connected homes and even a connected toothbrush!

The Mobile Money angle

You wouldn’t build a shopping centre without an ATM; the connections in this future world will need to be financial as well a technical. A connected fridge for example, needs to find some way of automatically paying for the things it orders. A connected car needs to be able to seamlessly pay for parking or an upgraded SatNav package. Some of these may be subscription-based with open-ended pre-registered payment credentials, but most consumers want a degree of control. So there’s going to need to be a way to manage payment preferences, and to authorise payments. And it won’t be any good if the consumer has to have separate apps for every connected device. It’s of course about secure, trusted, interoperable networks and many different businesses will want to battle for a role in this new ecosystem.


2.    Wearable technology

Smartwatches and fitness bands were also high on the agenda and I even spotted some Google Glass wearers in the wild! It seems unlikely that integrated pedometers, heart-rate monitors and cameras will be sufficient to propel wearable tech to mass adoption, but it is very thought-provoking to think about what sort of genuinely smart features might develop. It will surely have to move beyond simply device rationalisation to propositions which really provide a ‘10x better’ solution to real customer needs.

The Mobile Money angle

Wearable tech will need to be connected appropriately to money, just as the smartphone mothership is. There is also an interesting question as to how these devices could extend the evolving Mobile Money interactions on smartphones – blink for your account balance? Confirm payments by tapping your smart watch? How can these devices take us closer to the Star Trek vision of ‘invisible’ payments?


3.    Emerging market connectivity

Last year was the first time low-cost smartphones really began to be prominent at MWC. Now the fact that they are going to provide the means by which the next billion (or two) connections are made to the internet, is getting a lot of attention, including in Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote.

The Mobile Money angle

It’s exciting to consider how internet access could transform (in a favourable way!) the economics of Mobile Money services in emerging markets, as it potentially brings a new pool of economic activity to bear. It also of course, brings a new category of brands into the arena, and the battle for dominance will be intense. This battle will certainly be for consumer engagement, but also for the payments wiring in the background as past closed-loop paradigms need to engage with an open-loop cloud.


4.    Smartphone commerce

It was interesting to see Touch ID profiled as a key feature of the new Galaxy - an illustration of how commerce is becoming recognised as one of the key battlegrounds in the world of smartphones.

The Mobile Money Angle

This is an exciting time for smartphone commerce with Touch ID-type payment methods, the Bluetooth/Beacon technology which has had so much coverage in the last year, and the potential shot-in-the-arm for NFC payments heralded by host card emulation (HCE). Somewhere in here, perhaps we start to glimpse the future of commerce?


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