back to article Mobile-phone wallet stymied by lack of understanding

The financial industry's lack of understanding is what's preventing us from using our phones to pay for things, so the Mobey Forum is going to educate it. In a new white paper from the 'Forum (pdf), the industry body explains the various technologies available as well as the business relationships which are necessary to make …


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  1. Matt K


    I'll admit to being fairly new to this topic, but on what basis do they assume this will be popular with consumers?

    If my ability to pay depends in any way on my phone working, I'm not interested. (Can't guarantee battery life, and if it offers features requiring a data connection I wouldn't rely on those either - not going to work underground, in many areas outside cities, etc.)

    If it doesn't depend on the phone, what exactly does this add over other cashless payment methods? Why would I be interested in this rather than, say, an Oyster-style payment card?

    Can anyone shed any light on these fairly noddy questions?

    1. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!


      1. There's money in it for the people setting up the new system.

      2. erm, that's it really.

      But! Your stated requirements are obviously demonstrative of your luddite outlook, and your refusal to embrace change in a synergistic fashion, maximising the monetisation leading to the economic recovery that is an essential aspect of 21st century life. So there.

      <- the one with the Strategy Boutique logo on the back, thankya!

    2. Allan George Dyer
      Thumb Down


      and I would be very cautious about trusting my "cash" to a multi-function device... especially one where the manufacturers have a track record of security by obscurity, and it has remote communications ability (whether or not the initial implementation allows phone transfers... feature creep will surely introduce it later). I can imagine the conversation with the bank now, "Well, Sir, it must have been you that emptied all your accounts onto your phone, sent the money to Switzerland, set up a standing order to transfer your wages to Brazil every month and changed your PIN, because you entered your PIN to do it. No, it couldn't be some kind of keylogging trojan because we've tested that phone model and found no vulnerabilities. But, if those transactions were a mistake, it's OK, you can reverse them by entering your new PIN."

      However, I expect most users would love the convenience.

    3. Boring Bob


      NFC will work when your battery is flat. NFC (Near Field Communication) doesn't actually use radio waves, it uses magnetic coupling like a transformer (therefore it neads to be Near). Hence the power for the SIM card (which will double-up as your banking and Oyster card) and associated NFC circuitry can come from the reader.

      NFC can work both ways, so if the application on your phone would like to, the telephone can become the reader and communicate with a card (in this case your telephone battery would need to be working). Hence telephones can also communicate with each other using NFC. NFC can be thought of as being the same standard as is uses for contactless cards and passports but the device can be both a reader or a card. The interesting thing about NFC is that the "pairing time" between reader and device is very fast and communication can start virtually instantly a device comes into the magnetic field. This is not the case with Bluetooth.

      The extra hardware needed in a telephone is very small, an antenna and an NFC IC. With NFC you will no longer need to carry your wallet, the idea is all your cards will be in the SIM card in your telephone.

      The reason it is not taking off has nothing to do with the technology but the business case. Who is going to control, define the security and pay for the SIM card? The banks? The telephone operators? London Underground? The telephone operators will want a cut from every transaction made on the card, why should the banks give them this money? It may be more convenient for the customer and interesting for the telephone operators but why should the banks push a solution that will lose them money?

      This is a common problem with new ideas. If the person who pays is not the person who benefits it is time to ring the alarm bell.

  2. Andy Hards

    I think what they are trying to say

    is that it will be like an Oyster card but with the chip in a sticker on the phone rather than in an oyster card. Your Oyster card could also be in another or the same sticker in your phone.

    What I want to know is when is mobile cash transfers going to become global. Some countries such as India and Kenya have up to 15% of their GDP being transfered by this method. I have relatives in West Africa and it's a pain in the arse going to Western Union every time and paying them 10% when I could pay 1 or 2 with a mobile method.

    Basically though the technologies are there and businesses need to pick up on the technologys sooner rather than waiting for someone else to start or for standards to get established before they put their oar in. And in the current ecomonic climate which companies have the money to invest in new (currently0 unproven technology that might take 5 or 10 years to catch on.

    Build it and they will come.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Isn't the ultimate proximity system cold hard CASH.

    1) Step close to the counter

    2) Physically pass money to store-keep.

    3) Possibly receive change and a "Thank you, come again".

    Works pretty well and is quite popular with consumers of the last 1000 years!

  4. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Sorry but heres one consumer who is far from interested...

    I have absolutely no interest in this technology at all (but then again maybe im actually a luddite) but it really seems to me to be a solution looking for a problem.

    For those that dont want to use cash - debit and credit cards work pretty damn well for any purchases i want to make, and the only time i use any other sort of card of similar nature to whats proposed here is my Oyster card and frankly im more then happy for that to get me on the tube, where funnily enough i doubt my phone would work very well!

    If someone could point out to me some case where this might ACTUALLY be benficial, maybe i'll consider changing my mind but for now - I'll pass!

  5. A J Stiles

    Better idea

    Issue consumers with small, round pieces of metal to use for payments. These would be almost indefinitely reusable, thanks to their inherent durability, and could be accepted nationwide -- or even beyond national borders.

    For security, they could be embossed with a recognisable design (how about the Queen's head?) that would be more effort for an ordinary person to copy reliably than the face value of the payment token; which would in turn be more than the scrap value of the metal from which it was made, so melting them down would leave you with less money than you started with.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge


      We could put NFC chippery into the little, round bits of metal too and this would solve all those nonexistant problems that we haven't thought of yet.

      Quick, crank the whalesong up to 11, light another sandalwood melange joss stick and hand me a patent application form.

      1. A J Stiles
        Black Helicopters

        Ah but

        The whole beauty of using metal is, it *blocks* NFC.

        When some country's central bank wants to start minting plastic coins, *that's* the time to worry.

  6. Ben Boyle

    @Matt K

    My understanding is that it's predicated on two concepts - the first that you always have your phone with you and the second that you already have a billing relationship with your phone provider. I seem to recall that early trials were based on adding the cost of the item you're purchasing to your phone bill but I may well be wrong.

    The whole concept always struck me as flawed anyway.

  7. Velv

    Options are fantastic....

    But absolutely useless unless everyone supports them.

    Why do your think the world has pretty much ended up with Visa and Mastercard - because they have market share around the world. JCB is huge in Japan, but there no mainstream issuer in the West.

    So until the World agrees a standard, options are going to be too expensive to implement. And what shopkeeper wants 15 different touchpads on their counter. They want mints and tissues and car freshners that they can sell.

    1. Boring Bob

      The options are fantastic

      NFC is supported and will soon be coming to a shop near you. With NFC your telephone can become a contactless banking card or an Oyster card, etc. It is 100% compatible with the standard used for contactless cards and passports.

      Unknown to most UK consumers there is a reasonable chance that your banking card has an integrated antenna and can be used as a contactless card. Eventually you will start to find Point of Sales terminals in shops that will accept your banking card in contactless form for small payments (as is the case today in the USA).

      The world has agreed a standard (ISO 14443) and VISA and Mastercard both support it.

      1. Steve X
        Thumb Down

        No chance

        The day my bank card allows contactless, PIN-less payments is the day I change banks. Anyone wants my money they need to *ASK* me for it, and *I* need to authorize it. No matter how big or sxmall the amount. What's the point in all this "never let them take your card away" advice, if they can debit it without even seeing it?

        And yes, maybe NFC is supposed to be limited to a cm or two distance. Wait for the first 15cm hacks...

  8. Llanfair
    Big Brother

    Possible target for muggers

    Those who have rather expensive phones will have to wave their phones in front of others and become a possible target for muggers. Those who just wave an oyster card will not show others that they have expensive things on them.

    Also, mobile phones are targets for thieves anyway, why make them even bigger targets?

    1. A J Stiles

      Target for thieves

      People have very different motivations for stealing a mobile phone than they do for stealing other things.

      Most things -- such as money or jewellery -- are stolen for acquisitive effect, i.e. so that the thief has something they didn't have before.

      A mobile phone, however, is next to useless to anybody except its rightful owner -- nobody ever puts more than £10 of credit on their phone at a time (and even if they're on a contract, the phone will be usable only for as long as it takes for the victim to get to another phone and report it stolen). Stealing a mobile phone is done entirely for deprivatory effect, i.e. so that the victim no longer has something they did have before. Someone without a mobile phone takes longer to report the fact that they have been robbed .....

      Anyway, most "mobile phone thefts", if they were investigated, would turn out to be chancers trying to get a free upgrade.

  9. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I see benefit

    If it's a secure cashless payment system that I authorise, or can have turned off by remote control, or can have tracked down by radio.

    Apsarently Chip and PIN can be tricked into accepting the card without the PIN but saying that it got the PIN. That's very bad.

    I'm also not a full convert to Direct Debit, which means basically giving someone a blank cheque to dip into my bank account whenever they like. But other payment methods are more expensive.

    No need for this to be, if it's all electronic.

    Adverse scenario however: someone mugs you and demands that you transfer your entire worldly wealth to their anonymous PayPal or Western Union account.

    So on the whole, I'd prefer a portable payment device to be limited as to payment size. At least.

  10. Matt K

    Thanks Ben & all it is probably as stupid an idea as I'd imagined. If it's not tied to the phone (just stuck on) then it really doesn't add more than existing cashless payment systems, and if it is, you'll either be out of luck when your battery goes, muggers will be after your phone even more, and you'll have to rely on O2 (et al) for the integrity of your statements, micro-billing, etc...

    (I think that last one worries me as much as the others.)

  11. Tom 35

    he financial industry's lack of understanding

    about how it will boost their bonus. Add that each of the partners think they should get 80% of the fees...

  12. Mister_C

    Cirrus / Maestro

    Considering how many of the UK's banks are dumping Cirrus / Maestro from debit cards because "it isn't international" (ie one of our managers was on holiday and couldn't buy a postcard at a beach shack), I doubt that this idea has much hope of gaining critical mass.

    Unless they can integrate with Visa perhaps.

  13. Andy Watt

    Yagi antenna, anyone?

    Remember, someone managed to snarf contact details off a phone over bluetooth using the BlueSnipe rifle. Now imagine a small device you can wander through a crowd with, grabbing relevant details from contactless cards.

    And before you say that the standard is secure, remember the oyster crack. ISO 14443 defines a communicate standard which MIFARE (the oyster cards - "MIFARE classic") implemented... so the nearfield antenna device shouldn't be too tricky to produce.

    Also worth considering - cash machines have been physically "hacked" using a sleeve in the card slot: PIN pad terminals have been physically hacked and swapped out: how tricky would it be to put man-in-the-middle somewhere near the NFC pad?

    The minute the technology reaches critical mass (if it ever does - I'm not convinced that here in the UK we're anywhere near wanting it - I mean, most of us don't even care about anything other than SMS and calls on mobiles...) the tech crims will sharpen their skills and work out how to hack them.

    Those RF mesh wallets are starting to sound like a fantastic idea, esp if your cards are being provided with NFC in them without asking you.

  14. Alan Edwards

    Problem for me is...

    I don't use the same handset every day. Presumably the RFID chip is integrated into the handset body, so is not transferrable to a different handset.

    I normally use a Nokia 6230i but if I need GPS I take my Garmin NavTalk, for example.

    There's also the issue of lost handsets. If I drop my phone in the canal, it's no great loss - get the SIM replaced (if it's not a PAYG), dig another ancient brick out of the box, sorted. With this, I'd have to cancel the credit card account the chip was registered against, get (buy, most likely) a new handset with the RFID chip, and get it configured against the right account.


  15. JohnG

    Electronic cash trail

    Apart from making mugging more instantly successful (they get your electronic cash along with your mobile instead of just the mobile and missing the cash in your sock, pants, wherever), the other huge benefit for the lucky consumer is that the operators will have much more information about your habits. They will be able to track where you are, what you are buying and for how much. Better still, the government will also be able to lay their hands on this information, all in the interests of making the country a safer place. This is obviously much better than the nasty uncontrolled world of cash....

  16. Delboy
    Thumb Down

    Obviously, I'm doomed

    If the future will entail using a mobile phone to pay for everything, then I've had it. I absolutely refuse to have one. I hate the bloody things and many of the people who use them in such a rude manner.

    Anyway, I cannot afford the cost of using one.

  17. Daniel B.

    NFC? No need for that

    One bank over here did one of those "mobile payments" scheme. They chose a "secured" app (one of those *666# mobile apps) and you would have to put in your PIN for these payments. In fact, it sounded good enough to make me interested... but they screwed up big time. The "deal" was exclusive to a mobile operator that has barely 15% market share (and was even lower back then), instead of going with the one that has 80% market share (me included).

    Somehow they managed to screw up even more, as they "fused" the scheme with some weird social networking site, and that's when I finally lost interest. I'm never going to trust "social networking" with my money. Sadly, the bank's original idea was interesting enough; even the snack vending machines were able to recieve payments with that system...

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