MyChip - it's a handheld "pay" phone!

Settling down with my evening cup of hot chocolate to watch the world's events unravel on the news, I was met with an interesting advert and concept. They were promoting a mobile phone which could make payments. Ha! A new type of "pay" phone, I quipped to myself. I was just thinking this was quite clever till I realised this particular phone was no more than a web-enabled laptop in your pocket, directly accessing the payment portal on the Internet. Not quick, not convenient, not much use.

I think I must have nodded off at this point (what was in the hot chocolate?) because at that moment the door bell rang and the plumber was there to fix the hole I'd made at the weekend. Why do they hide pipes in the walls? Anyway, when he'd finished I suddenly realised I'd forgotten to go to the bank. "Don't worry," he said, "use your payphone!" Easy-peasey: he keyed the eighty-five quid into his phone, I put my PIN number into mine, we touched phones and I was sent a text confirming the payment. I'll need that for the insurance claim.

Once that was sorted, I found myself on the way to the movies. On the way I tapped my payphone on a poster offering free popcorn and a discount on the film tickets. At the complex I used my phone again to buy our tickets. Didn't need the PIN that time, not quite sure why? Bob was late as usual but when he showed up he offered to pay me for his share with his new payphone. This is a new Bob, I thought and decided to capitalise (literally) on the situation: "While you're at it Bob", I said, "make that fifty, for the drinks last Thursday". We touched phones. Hey, this payphone's already paid for itself!

Next morning I related my musings to a learned colleague who surprisingly told me that all I had dreamed was technically feasible! He called it Near Field Communications or 'NFC' for those who can't spell so well. There are just a few crucial details that need to be ironed out before my payphone becomes a reality. I felt myself nodding off again (what was in that hot chocolate?) as he droned on: "NFC has been floating around the industry for some time and is the next logical step to follow contactless in the world of payments. Of the few crucial details that need sorting out, the most pressing is where the security element of the technology will be stored. It can be stored on the handset itself, meaning the user has the flexibility and freedom to switch networks, or it can be stored on the SIM card, making it easier to cancel the functionality if your phone is lost or stolen. As, in your dream - Hey, you're at it again! Wake up! - as in your dream, the possibilities are endless for both consumer and merchant, as ultimately your phone will become your "card" and also your "terminal". As handsets become more sophisticated, there is no reason why software, such as Emvelink which is already thin enough to run on Mobile POS, could not be deployed onto mobile phone hardware, making it possible for a telephone handset to easily become a payment terminal with EMV standards."

"Well thanks for telling me all that and everything, but what I really want to know is when I can get hold of one and start using it?" I said. "Still I guess it's the same old, same old like the fax machine, it's no use until everyone's got one". At this point he almost bit my head off in his excitement (I was wide awake now). "No, the fantastic thing is", he said, "the NFC technology is compatible with contactless. As soon as you get your "payphone" as you've coined it (no pun intended) you can start buying your BLT sandwiches at 'your local chemist', your paper at your 'local newsagents' and that hideous stuff you keep mixing with your hot chocolate - or is it the other way round?!"

Wednesday, July 1, 2009