Digital Wallet

Overstuffed WalletToday my wallet is too thick, but does it need to be? I have cash, receipts, pictures, business cards, credit cards, ATM cards, insurance cards, store loyalty cards, and more stashed in there. I would love just to have a single card and a few photos, or even better everything in my cell phone. This expectation is not a stretch considering that this service is already mostly available in Japan via O-saifu Keitai (Mobile Wallet).

At the airport there is no need to wait in line to check-in since the phone is your boarding pass. The phone can be a key to get into a room just by storing access codes. Once registered with the bank the phone becomes a debit card, a credit-card, or even an e-Check. A trip to the ATM would be to top-up credit in the phone for those awkward moments where you just can’t get a connection to complete a transaction otherwise. The digital wallet would pay as you drove on toll roads, serve as your driver’s license, employee ID card, insurance card, bus pass, train pass, and even store your family photos. Everything you keep in your wallet today would conveniently reside in the cell phone.

If all my receipts arrived digitally, then keeping track of expenses becomes trivial. Also, receipts required for refunds or rebates would always be on hand. Downloading to your favorite finance tracking software is easy.

Some functionality such as ID verification, or credit-card verification would likely require network access. However, the ability to access downloaded money and IDs for casual checks must be available even when the phone is off the network or even powered down.

One risk with wallets today is that when they are lost, so is everything inside. With a digital wallet this is avoided by maintaining all the relevant information in a data store with just copies maintained in the phone. Institutions providing the data stores could maintain and protect the valuable data. If the phone is lost, only money downloaded into the phone is lost, while the personal data stays locked away. With GPS you might even get the lost phone back. In the event of theft, only the downloaded money would be at risk.

If the phone is to serve as an ID, and to protect our valuable data and money, authenticating the phone owner is required. Biometrics would verify that the phone wielder is the owner.

There is no longer any good reason to carry around a thick wallet. IDs, money, and all the rest should be managed by the cell phone.

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One Comment on “Digital Wallet”

  1. Mei Says:

    Yesterday, I went shopping. At the cashier, the staff asked me if I had the store credit point card (very popular way in Japan to get credit based on how much you spend). I was sure I had it with me. However I went through my wallet many times, but could not find it. It took so long and I felt a little embarrassed since there were people behind me. I gave up in the end, and did not get 5% off my purchase and lost the points which would have been converted to cash!

    Having a digital wallet sounds like a great idea. How to protect the private data when it is lost would be a good to know.