The wallet as a service

In an article on O’Reilly this week I read an interesting discussion on the mobile wallet. Naveed Anwar of Paypal coined the on-demand wallet.

The mobile wallet is necessarily an on-demand wallet, meaning it’s accessible from different devices and platforms and can hold more than any wallet in your back pocket: multiple funding sources, coupons, receipts, loyalty cards, private label cards, and business cards … and that’s just the start.

I believe too that we are moving to a new form of wallet after all and that this will be a service more than a physical thing. A service that can be used from different places and devices. On the other hand I think we need long time some kind of tangible reference points. It is no problem to combine those however.

Everything is migrating to a service. A simple example is the way we pay for parking nowadays. We used to use coins primarily, but plastic replaced that the last years. In a lot of cities you only can pay with a chip card or credit card. But now we get services like Parkmobile. You call a number and the parking time is started. Or you use the app on your phone. The same transformation you see with the public service; after buying tickets with plastic we now use a virtual account where we check in and out.

The same goes for another part of the contents of your wallet are: loyalty cards. The winner of this years Vodafone Mobile Clicks award – Cardmobili – developed a concept for virtual loyalty cards. Other things in your wallet as for example ID-card and driving licence can also have a pure digital form, but this will probably take longer.

Paypal is an example how money can be transfered to the telephone: a whole different payment experience is bumping money from one to another with Paypal. But also interesting is the new circle of money system that emerges. We have somewhere an account where we receive our salary and pay our costs, the social money is a separate system. This will be even more the case when we use Facebook cash to pay for our social entertainment. What role Google will take when they execute their banking license remains to be seen; a ‘old school’ bank or a provider of social currency.

The question is if the wallet as a service will be an app on your mobile phone, or a set of apps. Not unlikely, but in the end it is not important; you need access to the service. And you need a kind of identity identifier. Especially if it goes deeper into the core source of the money.

We will use tangible stuff for a long time. A complete merge to a service will take a generation. But I can imagine that our wallet will be replaced by some card with NFC or RFID that can be used to identify yourself with the service. Maybe integrated in your phone, but not necessary. Your phone is the screen for managing the accounts. And there lies also one of the most interesting developments; the differentiation between bank money and exchange money. The wallet as a service will generate a new currency with a new set of possibilities and (new) social behavior.

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

3 thoughts on “The wallet as a service”

  1. One hack I came up with was to use the barcode from the AH-bonuskaart to bootstrap parallel loyalty schemes on top of. Just link that number to your identity once and use everywhere and you get a card with near full market penetration.

    Once that is done, you can of course slowly phase in your own card to supplant the AH one etc. etc. Doing that is left as an exercise for the reader.

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