In the beginning we just stole things. Earliest Stone Age man didn’t bother with payment options, he just waved his club. Then came rudimentary trade, exchanging goods or service, often in the form of bartering with livestock, payment by pig essentially. What we would recognise as money started disappearing down the back of sofa’s around 500BC, with pieces of silver being used as coins, and to be fair to coins and notes they’ve hung on in there. However, in recent years, ‘electro wonga’ has taken over, payment over the World Wide Web can be made at the click of a button, and all the cash we have is stored on a tiny microchip; locked away behind a 4-digit number.
Well the next step in payment evolution is being talked up at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Near Field Communication is a new technology being developed which allows mobile phones to exchange data, including payments, to other nearby devices.
It is hoped these new mobile wallets will eventually see cash, and even debit and credit cards go the way of the bag of silver pieces, and be consigned to the history books.
One of the earliest uses of this NFC technology was the Oyster travel card for use on the London underground, the mobile wallet will be an advanced version of this, with the mobile phone holding your banking details allowing you to make a transaction and pay for services simply by swiping your handset across a sensor. It could also be used to transfer information from one handset to another simply by touching phones.
Handset manufacturers, tech experts and network operators present at this year’s Mobile Congress were wading through all the latest initiatives aimed at selling mobile phones by the truck load. It would seem that NFC technology turned the most heads, as the possibilities for the new system are endless.
The obvious question of course is security, how safe is this new technology? Well NFC enthusiasts have been quick to jump on the issue, claiming that NFC payments will improve accuracy and safety of payments, helping to eliminate fraud. The exact details of how this will be done do seem to have been glossed over slightly, leaving the fraudsters beaming. For many, the worry remains that digital cash leaping unseen from one device to another would seem a lot easier to steal than a squealing pig.