Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Plastic Credit Cards – Quo Vadis?

MANILA, Philippines --- They say it's a revolution rapidly growing but quietly invading the globe. It will render the credit card which is popularly referred to as the" plastic in our wallet" go the way of the typewriter, the cassette tape, the record player as a thing of the past. This is because of a quiet quiet revolution that will become a $670 billion reality in just three years. I believe so and this is with the help and use of our smartphones.

The new technology of cardless payments will soon be invading our shores and we no longer have to carry so many plastic cards in our wallets. Even our ID cards will no longer be needed since through our smartphones we can be carrying our ID through phones and can be validated by another device. In fact, since I travel a lot these days I don't carry plane tickets anymore when I buy my plane tickets through the web. All I need to do is show my electronic ticket in the airport through my Iphone or Ipad; however, this is just a very simplified example of the ease of use of our smartphones. There is a better and is rapidly growing global transformation in making transactions through the recent discovery in technology with endless possibilities

This new technology is through the use of NFC (Near Field Communications) with our smartphones. This is very useful in making contactless payment systems, the same systems used in credit cards; however this time we use our phones to replace this card system. I was curious about this new wave of technology so I tried to know more about it and according to Wikipedia - NFC grows from an RFID (radio- frequency identification) technology. In 2004, Nokia, Philips and Sony established the NFC Forum with Nokia 6131 being the first NFC Phone in 2006 and Samsung Nexus S, the first Android NFC phone which was launched in 2010. Apple of course will not be left behind. According to an article in www.nfcworld.com Apple recently made available full coverage of its presentation in its Word Wide Developer Conference, where they unveiled a mobile wallet application called Passbook which will be available with the launch of iOS 6 in the later part of this year.

Google Wallet on the other hand is already slowly into using NFC by storing information of credit cards and loyalty cards in the form of virtual wallet and using an NFC-enabled device at terminals which accept MasterCard PayPass transactions. Three countries namely Germany, Austria, Latvia and Italy are already using on trial, ticketing system for public transport through the use of NFC. China and India are using it in public transport and in box offices ticketing respectively. I also heard from somebody who visited South Korea that cards through smartphones and NFC is becoming popular there although I still have to verify this.

However, cardless payments are just one of the many uses of NFC. According to an article in www.forbes.com by Craig Ochikubo, NFC will also make it easier for smartphone owners to use their phone because instead of using menus on a screen to establish wireless connections, one will simply hold a smartphone against another device such as a wireless-equipped television (the example he gave) and voila, a secure Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection is established. What is more exciting, is we can stream movies and watch it on digital televisions, transfer photos to an Ipad or tablets computers, sync information with our PC without having to go through Itunes ,for instance, for Apple users. Although there are devices now in the market such as I-flashback which I was trying to buy a week ago (but can't find an available stock), which can transfer photos directly from the camera to the IPad or IPhone, the capability of the NFC is more mind-boggling.

This is indeed a welcome breakthrough and one can just marvel at the work of the human brain to make all of these possible.