SXSWi: Mobile Payments and the Virtual Wallet

Last updated: 20 March 2014

Another SXSWi in Austin, Texas has come and gone and if you’ve ever been, you can likely attest to it being bigger (and crazier!) than ever. We focused our time on sessions that we felt had the most impact and insight into our digital lives – and no surprise, this year, most were focused on mobile – in particular mobile payments, apps and what many are now calling the “virtual wallet.”

Many agreed that consumer interest is growing but some questioned when it would become more mainstream and what security risks consumers should consider. We heard quite a bit about mobile payment apps from retailers that are growing in popularity like the Starbucks payment app but also, Tabbedout, which was very popular during SXSW as it allows users to open, review and pay bar tabs directly from their smartphone. Many people we talked to outside the convention center during our “JAGwalking” sessions even noted they were already using it. Have you tried it before? Would it be something you recommend?

Stacey Higginbotham of GigaOm just wrote about how mobile payment apps are creating the “virtual wallet” in response to news that Google is joining Citigroup and MasterCard to set up a mobile payment system. You can read her full article here.

SXSWi 2011

Our digital security expert and blogger, Robert Siciliano, covered the topic last month as well in a blog post on the rise of mobile payments and how smartcard-based SIM cards will be at the core of mobile payment security. Essentially, the SIM card contains a small computer with its own software designed to protect the payment information.  You can see Robert’s full article here.

NFC, a.k.a. near field communications, is also another way consumers will be able to conduct contactless payments with their smart phones. NFC is a wireless standard for communicating within a few inches. But NFC can be used for things other than mobile payments – it can even be used to unlock your car door with your phone. Pretty neat, huh? Ars Technica also did a thorough write up on the technology last month – it’s definitely worth a look. You can read it here.

NFC and mobile payments are still being tested in the US but we expect to see major rollouts beginning in 2011. While over 96% of attendees who responded to our survey about mobile payments said they’d be interested in using their cell phones to make payment transactions, it’s clear that there is still a big need for education on what NFC technology is and ultimately the impact it will have on how we use and view our smart phones. Not surprisingly, when asked what “NFC” meant while JAGwalking at SXSW, most attendees answered with “National Football Conference.”

Thoughts or comments? We’d love to hear them! Have you used mobile payment apps? Let us know if so, or if not, what your concerns are to adopting mobile payments on your smartphone.

Missed the discussions at SXSW? Search #virtualwallet or #sxswnfc on to catch related tweets.

And follow @JustAskGemalto on Twitter to learn practical answers for your digital life. Thanks!

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