What came first, the chicken or the egg? While the answer to such a philosophical conundrum has polarized humanity for generations, the age-old paradox seems to have found its modern incarnation in the stalled mobile payment revolution, with the chicken and the egg cast in the roles of infrastructure and adoption.
With the North American mobile market lagging behind several of its global counterparts when it comes to mobile payment technology, it seems the problem here is one of who moves first? For their part, it seems that all carriers have their own version of mobile payment technology, meaning that none of particularly willing to invest the money needed in some sort of unified infrastructure, given that consumer adoption towards one particular form factor has been slow.
On the other hand, of course, user adoption has been slow because the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist. People want to pay with their mobile device, but even if a merchant has the technology in place, there exists the issue of compatibility. Never fear though, the mobile market has answered this conundrum in the same way humanity has approached every paradox it’s ever faced…it formed a committee.
While there’s no question that mobile payment will become a reality in North America, the question on everyone’s mind is simply, when? To date the mobile payment revolution has been a lot of promises but not a lot of reality or action, leaving the North American mobile market lagging woefully behind many of its global counterparts.
This past week the Electronic Transactions Association, itself a rather pointless bureaucratic entity, announced the formation of the Mobile Payments Committee, comprised of representatives from all four majorU.S.wireless carriers plus other interested parties like Google, Isis, PayPal, Verifone and Intuit.
The purpose of the committee, as explained by TechNewsWorld writer Peter Suciu, “is to develop a cohesive business strategy for the mobile payments industry, and to help legislators and regulators determine a mobile payments policy, while educating consumers and merchants about the benefits of mobile payments.” Simply put, the committee is tasked with devising an answer to the longstanding issues that have slowed mobile payment adoption.
While philosophers have long stumbled over the causality dilemma of the chicken and the egg, thankfully the answer to the mobile market’s infrastructure/adoption crisis is much easier to find, infrastructure needs to come first. The way to solve this problem is that carriers and other interested parties need to agree on a form factor, meaning that much like the VCR v Beta fights of the ‘80s, one form factor will have to bow out. This also means that vendors need to get this infrastructure into their stores as soon as possible.
Second, the mobile market needs to make the chosen mobile payment technology ubiquitous on handsets, meaning that from now on NFC (or whatever it may be) comes standard. That leads to the final stage, as once these payment-equipped handsets are in the hands of consumers; make mobile payment the simple and easy solution to purchasing goods and services.
For now, however, anarchy reigns in the mobile payment space as each carrier and company develops its own technology, meaning the much anticipated payment revolution will likely remain stalled until the market itself decides to take a more unified approach.