When I moved away to go to college, my parents gave me a credit card for emergency use. As a cash-strapped student, there were many instances when starvation was my emergency. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating the starvation part but the credit card was definitely something that could have been used for groceries - if any grocery stores back then would have accepted credit cards. Today, of course, anyone would be surprised if a merchant didn't accept the swipe of a card for payment.
But the point here is that, while it may be hard to imagine that we'll just wave our mobile phones in front of some reader at the grocery checkout counter someday, the concept is very much a real part of our future. And, according to a Bloomberg report this week, Google may be the company to lead the change.
The report said that Google is considering building a payment an advertising service that would let users buy goods by tapping or waving their mobile phones, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the plan. They said the service, which would be based on near field communication (NFC) technology. could debut this year.
At the Web 2.0 summit in November, Google CEO Eric Schmidt showed off an “unannounced device that I carry around,” a T-Mobile-powered phone using an NFC chip that he said could eventually replace the credit card. He didn't have much to say about it at the time but did note that Google has no desire to get into the same business as an Amazon or iTunes, which collects credit card numbers for transactions. Instead, he sees Google as being the technology provider, with a service like Google Checkout being only a part of it.
Google isn't the only one with its eyes on the NFC market, which is expected to represent a sizable chuck of the global mobile-payment market in the coming years. In November, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless formed a joint venture, called ISIS, that will focus on building a national mobile commerce network with an initial focus on point-of-sale purchases. At the time, it said it expects roll out service in around mid-2012. ISIS spokesperson Jaymee Johnson told Bloomberg:
It's a land grab. Folks are sort of jockeying for position.
Google wouldn't confirm the report for Bloomberg, but it's not too much a reach of the imagination to believe it. I'm hoping that, by the time my own kids get to college, I'll be able to upload some grocery money to their bank accounts and that they'll be able fight off starvation simply by waving their phones at the checkout counter.