Next-gen m-commerce: wonder wands or worrisome wormholes?

Now let’s get one thing straight before I mention m-commerce. I do have a mobile phone, but I don’t take it to the gym with me and I can’t understand people who call me on it when they know I am working on my landline.

Now let’s get one thing straight before I mention m-commerce. I do have a mobile phone, but I don’t take it to the gym with me and I can’t understand people who call me on it when they know I am working on my landline. That said, I might be persuaded to love my Palm (give me a break – I still like it) Treo just a bit more if it was a secure m-commerce machine.

Given the fact that the last two times I have been overseas my bank has cancelled my cards almost automatically to protect me, wouldn’t it be nice if I could take more personal control of my own security as I travel? Well, this of course is the sales spiel of most of the vendors in this space right now.

In short, the message is: without security, mass adoption of m-commerce will never take off.

Given my regular calls now to UK banking hotlines that want me to prove my identity by recalling the name of my first hamster. I am prepared to open up to this subject.

A quick ‘Google gander’ (should I trademark that?) later, I found there was no shortage of companies trying to tell us that now is the time to embrace m-commerce as the secure tools are available. If there is truth in this, I would arguably suggest that software developers could be about to pounce (actually not pounce – developers don’t ‘pounce’ do they?) or at least shuffle inquisitively towards this market to pump out some new apps so that I can buy my 30-packs of Budweiser without the hassle of having to try and get cash out.

For no particular reason (other than the fact that I want to use an example), my ‘vendor du jour’ in this market is Valimo. Sounds a bit like a painkiller – but it’s not; probably “val” for value or validation and “mo” for, umm, mobile I guess.

Their proposition is that they can, “Enable legally binding authentication and transaction signing for online banking, payment confirmation, corporate services and consuming online services and content.”

Do you buy that? No – well we need more info don’t we? The company does appear to recognise that the consumer experience needs to be spot-on the first time a mobile subscriber tries something new with their phone or operators risk their whole market running away screaming and never coming back. Some mobile industry watchers perhaps rightly liken this to what happened with MMS.

If you care (as I did) to look up some external data on this subject , then Juniper seems to be the daddy when it comes to stats on the mobile payment market with research here and here.

I also asked James Governor at RedMonk for his opinion on this subject and he told me, “It’s absurd that we're entering 2009 and mobile commerce is still unevenly distributed across Europe. Carriers need to get a grip and start agreeing on standards.”

Anyway, the reason I came across the previously mentioned vendor is that a pal of mine called Terry Brown works for Acer in Istanbul and I wondered (if I nip over to visit him) what sort of a mess I’d get into if I was using the ATM at the Blue Mosque to get a few Turkish Lira out for a few kebabs.

It appears that the Turks are not only a dab hand at kebabs, Empire building and Euro-Asia continent straddling democracy, they’re also an m-commerce-happy bunch and have racked up nearly two million Turkcell transactions using Valimo.

So, m-commerce: wonder wands or worrisome wormholes? Well, if the Turkish market is doing so well, why aren’t we using this in the UK? Hell, America barely has chip and pin yet from what I can see. It could, it should, I hope it will – be a new market for software application development very soon.

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