Australia will not be getting Google Wallet any time soon, according to the company's managing director for Australia and New Zealand Maile Carnegie, who said today that she had more exciting things on which to focus the company's resources locally.
"Google Wallet is obviously in America, but I have no plans to launch it in Australia," said Maile at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle event in Sydney today. "My job is to really look at it and say, 'What are the big problems or opportunities to solve in Australia?' And there are much more exciting things on my plate."
Those "exciting things" include helping to reduce road accidents through the development of self-driving cars, and bringing broadband internet connectivity to parts of the world previously unable to gain access, through the use of high-altitude balloons employed by Google's Loon Project.
The Google Wallet app has been available for users in the United States since late 2011, allowing Americans to use integrated near-field communications (NFC) technology for contactless payments.
However, apart from a hack allowing people in Australia to set up a Google Wallet trial with — and restricted to — the US$10 pre-paid credit the company offered users upon its release in 2011, and a brief demo at Google's Creative Sandbox event in Sydney in November 2011, Australians have not had ready access to the service.
From Maile's perspective, the Australian banking sector is one of the most technologically-advanced in the world right now, with plenty of players — including the big banks — offering contactless NFC payment services, and Google's local contribution lies in areas other than its Wallet offering.
"Supporting the financial services industry here is a priority for us," said Maile. "When you look at a global landscape for banking I would say that Australia is probably leading the way in terms of looking after the consumers. If you look at things like NFC payments, Australia was fast out of the gate [and is] number one globally.
"The innovation ecosystem in banking here is actually incredibly robust, so I would always go back to what the consumer needs and where is it greatest," she said.
While all of the 'big four' banks in Australia are forging ahead with NFC payment services, ANZ Australia CEO Phil Chronican revealed today that the company may not be far from implementing a biometrics voice identification system for its telephone banking services.
Chronican, who also spoke at the event in Sydney today, said that ANZ was looking at using biometrics for a host purposes.
"The one we've been playing with and actually looking at going live with now, is using voice biometrics identification," he said.
While ANZ has made no secret of its trials with biometrics technology, announcing in 2012 it was keen to enable biometrics for banking, Chronican's comments today indicate that the company may be reaching the end of its pilot trial for voice-based biometrics.
One of the potential stumbling blocks with the technology, according to Chronican, has been identifying what customers are comfortable with, and what they might be uncomfortable with.
However, Chronican suggested that with a comfortable middle ground, biometrics could play an important future in the banking industry.
"There is a whole issue around the societal elements of what people think is appropriate and what do they think of as being too intrusive," he said. "I think biometrics will certainly be something that will have a lot of merit, particularly where it’s critically important that we get an additional level of identification."